aviationscouts – New Life for Old Seats.

Esther Nestle
2 pictures
5 minutes

After about eight years of flight at the latest, all passenger seats will be removed. Why? And what happens to the old seats? Thomas Bulirsch, Managing Director of aviationscouts GmbH, is an expert in these questions. aviationscouts is one of the leading companies in the (digital) trade and reprocessing of used aircraft seats and cabin interiors.

The interview with aviationscouts

aviationscouts - Thomas Bulirsch

The business model ‘used aircraft seats’ is one that you don’t come across on the web every day. How did it come about?

We live in the digital age. There are marketplaces for everything. Why not also for used aircraft seats? So in 2014 we set up a digital marketplace.

On the portal, we approach the airlines and say “Let’s make a deal. We list your seats on the portal, we do the tedious sales for you – you give us commission for that.”

So you relieve the airlines of the laborious task of placing their surplus stocks back on the market…

Exactly. By the way, we already did this in pre-portal times, but with a much greater expenditure of time: On the one hand, we constantly had to tickle out the current buyer demand and on the other hand, we had to piece together what the seller’s market was offering. This work is now done by the portal for us.

Why do airlines change their seats every six to eight years?

First of all, technology is advancing all the time. This is particularly evident from the weight of the seats. They are becoming lighter and lighter and therefore more economical, since fuel consumption depends largely on weight. Whereas the old seat models still weighed 15 to 18 kilograms per PAX, today’s seats weigh a comparatively smart 8 to 11 kilograms.

Secondly, airlines pay close attention to their corporate design. It is their only distinguishing feature! Which is why they are very keen to refresh their cabin interiors at regular intervals? In the course of this, the entire cabin concept is often modified by adding cabin classes.

upcycling - aviationscouts

What’s the quickest to break?

The covers and the plastic parts. So anything that’s not structural. The seats are designed in such a way that the so-called cosmetic parts can be easily replaced or reconditioned. The structural parts, on the other hand, have a high durability. In general, our approach is to preserve as much of the original seat as possible.

And the other side: who buys the used seats? Who are your buyers?

The main buyers of aviationscouts are

All in all, we are talking about a manageable customer group.

Your company offers further services beyond the procurement.

In the course of time, one thing led to another. So many airlines asked us for storage facilities. Today we have about 6,000 seats (over 12,000 passenger seats) in stock. We not only broker many of these, but also buy the seats ourselves.

aviationscouts - upcycling
The seat storage of aviatonscouts

In addition, more and more airlines wanted to have their seats overhauled and certified before purchase. So we brought a repair station on board in 2016. The customer now has access to a complete package, including cleaning, general overhaul and suitable logistics just in time. Our former pure brokerage service has gradually been transformed into a full service.

Your website says that you also deal in cabin interiors.

We started this business last year. At the moment we have two complete interiors in stock, from floor-to-floor with galley, sanitary facilities, luggage panels, control panels and all the rest. The idea behind it: Buy the interiors as a package and then resell the individual parts exactly as the market needs them. The advantage for the market is our ability to react quickly. Unlike manufacturers of new parts, we can deliver immediately.

Can you tell us a sentence or two about your prices?

Our prices are not so different from the prices for new seats; the customer saves perhaps 30 or 40 percent. You can get an old seat for 400 to 1,200 euros; the price range for a reconditioned seat is 2,000 to 4,000 euros. However, the decisive factor for our customers is the short delivery times we can offer them, the flexibility. In some cases, customers would be prepared to pay significantly higher prices. What counts is the time until a plane can take off again. Leaving planes on the ground is what is really expensive!

What role do environmental issues play in your business model?

Sustainability plays a major role! We want to scrap as few seats as possible and get as many seats back in the air as possible. Since the trend is towards ever lighter seats and the heavier seats are hardly possible to move, we are pursuing a new approach for the heavyweights: we are assigning them to a new purpose and a new user group. The buzzword is upcycling. Here we work closely with the company Bag to Life.

aviationscouts - aviationgate - bag to life

Where do you see your company in five, in ten years? What challenges do you see?

In itself, our concept is low-risk. In the medium term we plan to scale our business model. We want to create a kind of blueprint, a model company for the hubs of the world. To achieve this goal, we have a concept that allows us to cooperate with companies all over the world.

Thank you very much for the interview!

Thomas Bulirsch is Managing Director of aviationscouts. The 17-member team attaches great importance to a common value system. All act according to the motto: “Say what you do – do what you say.” The company name ‘aviationscouts’ is intended to illustrate that the Lichtenfels-based company with its expertise is setting the direction towards new markets and innovations.

Pictures © aviationscouts

by Esther Nestle

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