The European Plastics Distributors Association (EPDA) believes that aviation grade plastics will play an increasingly important role in both new-build aircraft and makeovers from major airlines.
The EPDA said aircraft seats had traditionally used metals and metal composite materials to meet strict Federal Aviation Administration flammability regulations.
However, plastics companies like US-based Sekisui Polymer Innovations, which has distributors throughout Europe, have recently introduced aviation grade thermoplastic sheet for seats and other aircraft interior components that meets these requirements.
Thanks to new moulding and material engineering technologies, lightweight thermoplastic sheet can now be used in seat back shells, reducing the weight of a large passenger aircraft by around 150kg compared to metal composite materials, leading to fuel savings and reduced CO2 emissions.
The association also said using more plastic materials when creating aircraft interiors can also help conserve energy.
Sekisui aviation market business manager Michael Miler, said: “There is a trend towards plastics for the more complex shapes for fittings and fixtures inside aircraft.
“Designers are having more influence and are using more complex three-dimensional geometries which is making seating, especially in business and first class, appear more like the furniture you would see at home or in public spaces. These complex shapes are much easier to replicate in plastic than with metal or composite structures.”
Plastic materials are used throughout the entire cabin of commercial aircraft to make seat parts, such as back shells, tray tables and arm rests, as well as durable frameworks for a cabin's interior walls.
Miller added: “In the area of customisation I think the flexibility of plastic materials offer an advantage by giving the airline and its designers the best opportunity to fully explore different colours, textures and patterns, to create the most attractive appearance while always serving a distinct function, such as providing maintainability.”