Airbus is exploring higher output of A320 single-aisle and A350 wide-body aircraft, following a similar move by Boeing Co. to help shorten the wait time for customers following its highest order intake ever last year.
Airbus now builds 42 of its workhorse single-aisle jets a month, and production could rise to 44 or 46 in early 2016, said Tom Williams, Airbus executive vice president for programmes. Output of the updated A320neo could rise to about 50 after 2018, and the 10-a-month rate targeted for A350s in 2018 could go to 14 thereafter, the company said.
Airbus and Boeing, the biggest makers of commercial jetliners, have order books stretching out years, making it harder for some customers to upgrade their fleets with more fuel-efficient aircraft like the composite-material A350. Airbus’s net order intake last year was 1,503, topping the 1,355 for Boeing, which kept the crown for the deliveries tally.
“We have some homework to do, but we believe there is potential to go higher,” Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier said Monday at the annual press conference in Toulouse, where the plane maker and its parent company are based. “My problem is to find production slots.”
Airbus has sold out A320 production until 2016, with the first re-engined A320neos available from 2019 and A350-900s spoken for through 2021, chief salesman John Leahy said.
The order intake for 2013 was more than twice what Airbus projected a year ago. Airbus delivered 626 jets, a company record, while trailing Boeing, which handed over 648 airliners. Deliveries at Airbus should be about the same this year and match orders, Bregier said.
Output will increase further in 2015 as A350 production ramps up and again in 2016 if Airbus decides to increase A320 build-rates, Williams said. Boosting output for the A320 that will cease production in early 2018 in favor of the neo is possible because much of the investment for the current type can be re-used on the follow-on, he said.
Airbus is adjusting its narrow-body production to deliver at least 50 percent of the jets as A321s, the largest version, seating about 220, that is increasingly popular. Airbus may trim A330 production around 2016 as more A350s, although Bregier said he doesn’t expect “a sharp drop.”