Belfast Telegraph

Thompson Aero Seating takes off as it unveils a 90% increase in its turnover

By Margaret Canning

Airplane seat company Thompson Aero Seating near Portadown has announced a 90% increase in turnover to £51m.

The company has secured multi-million pound aviation deals since it was set up in the late 1990s - including a major contract worth £8m with Aer Lingus last year.

The Vantage fully-flat seats for business class are now used for Aer Lingus' transatlantic routes to Boston and Orlando.

Vantage seats have also been fitted on the Airbus A330 for Australian national airline Qantas - earning the model a runner-up position in the Australian Good Design Awards.

And its Cozy Suite seats, which have a staggered configuration, have also won plaudits in the travel press around the world though orders have been slow.

As well as a major jump in turnover, the company's innovations also helped pre-tax profits take a jump to £10.6m in the year to March 2015, up from £6.1m.

The directors' report for the firm, which is based in Seagoe Industrial Park, said retaining post-tax profits in the business had enabled it to make major capital investments.

And staff numbers at the firm have grown from 119 to 223, with the company recruiting in response to growing demand. Production roles account for 200 of the workforce, administration 16 and management seven.

The company last year won investment of £1.7m from Invest NI to support the creation of 85 new jobs - part of a total investment of £10m. Managing director Gary Montgomery said the business wanted to grow sales of its patented seating by more than £40m in the next two years. "With an already very strong order book confirmed, we are well-positioned to achieve this objective," he said.

The company was also able to avail of tax reliefs on intellectual property in the past year, including £623,679 in patent box deduction, and £159,127 in research and development tax credits. Its patent box allowances were more than double than the year before, while it had claimed no R&D tax credits in the year to March 2014.

Thompson Aero's Cozy Suite has a second, side-on headrest as well as individual arm-rests and is designed for economy and premium economy cabins.

It also features a fixed-back shell which eradicates the nuisance factor of a passenger bumping and kicking your seat.

A New Zealand travel website has called the new design "radical" and one "that could even make middle seats an attractive option". DUP Craigavon councillor Mark Baxter said the company was a major success story in the area. "Outside Belfast, Craigavon does have the biggest industrial base in Northern Ireland, and they have exploited that. Logistically we are one of the best-placed areas in the country."

Thompson Aero Seating was founded by James Thompson from Newry in 1997, though he later sold all his shares.

Belfast Telegraph