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777 jet seating
Airplane seats can be quite luxurious, and lucrative to sell, as illustrated by this seating arrangement on a China Airlines 777 jet. (Boeing Photo)

Boeing says it has entered into a joint venture with Adient, the global leader in automotive seating, to manufacture and sell a portfolio of seating products to airlines and leasing companies.

Adient Aerospace will fill a huge gap in the airplane supply chain, said Kevin Schemm, senior vice president of supply chain management, finance and business operations and chief financial officer for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

“Seats have been a persistent challenge for our customers, the industry and Boeing, and we are taking action to help address constraints in the market,” Schemm said today in a news release.

Adient owns a 50.01 percent majority share of the venture. Boeing holds the other 49.99 percent. Earnings and cash flow will be divvied up proportionately, and the joint venture will be included in Adient’s consolidated financial statements. Both companies will be represented on Adient Aerospace’s board of directors, Boeing said.

The venture’s operational headquarters and production plant will be in Kaiserslautern, a German city near Frankfurt, but the initial customer service center will be in Seattle. Aftermarket spare parts distribution will be handled exclusively by Aviall, a Boeing subsidiary.

Boeing says industry analysts expect the commercial aircraft seating market to grow from about $4.5 billion in 2017 to $6 billion by 2026.

Boeing vs. Airbus in 2017

Word of the joint venture comes in the wake of year-end sales reports from Boeing and its European archrival, Airbus. Boeing reported 763 jet deliveries during 2017, compared with Airbus’ 718.

Airbus bested Boeing in the net tally of commercial airplane orders for the year, 1,109 to 912. However, The Seattle Times noted that Boeing sold more of the higher-priced widebody jets, and suggested that Boeing outdid Airbus in the market value of last year’s orders.

Citing pricing data from the aviation consulting firm Avitas, the Times estimated the actual value of the orders at $63 billion for Boeing vs. $60 billion for Airbus. By the same measure, jet deliveries in 2017 added up to $60 billion for Boeing and $48 billion for Airbus.

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