Airbus CEO Talks About Highs And Lows Of Market

By Jens Flottau
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

Yes, we will. Airbus is well-known for building families of aircraft. The point is that the market is gradually moving to slightly bigger aircraft, and that is also true for narrowbodies. The priority, so far, is to have a good -900 and to focus on it. Then we will have time to optimize that and build a good -800. The first customers [for the -800] are set for 2016, so there is a market for smaller aircraft. I believe we have positioned the center of the family—the -900—well. The center of the market is around this size and the size of the -1000.

You have approximately four times as many orders for the -900 than for the -1000 and the -800. Will that ratio remain the same?

The -1000 will probably pick up nicely. British Airways has selected us, as has Cathay Pacific. And Qatar Airways has ordered 37. We did not really market the -1000 aggressively because we wanted it to be ready first, to freeze detailed configuration and to confirm that we can deliver what we have promised. We have passed these milestones now and we can offer it. This aircraft will have a higher market share because it does all the missions of a 777-300ER with 25 percent less fuel burn. It will find its way not only against the 787, but also the 777.

Would you see a further stretch of the A350 as conceivable in the future? Boeing's proposed 777-9X is larger than the A350-1000.

I would never say never, but we have not studied it and we have no plans short-term. So far, the three members of the family will cover most of the requirements of the market.

Are you surprised that the A319 is not selling strongly anymore?

If you take American Airlines, they decided to buy a lot of A319s. It is clear that when we look at NEO we have a marginal quantity of A319NEOs compared to A320NEOs and A321NEOs. This is part of a trend. Developing the A319NEO will involve a marginal cost and we want to offer our customers that option.

Several reasons may be driving the trend. The most important one is that people are simply buying larger aircraft. New competitors such as the Bombardier CSeries are surely not the reason. Look at the figures. We are close to having more sales for the A319NEO alone than Bombardier has for the CSeries.

The A319NEO is a low-risk solution for airlines operating the A320 family. The CSeries still has to demonstrate its performance. We have decided to double the production capacity of the A321 from nine to 18 per month in the coming years to deal with that trend. Some bottlenecks occurred—not in the final assembly line—but in the supply chain. When it was launched, we did not assume that we would reach a rate of 18. For a long time, it was at four or five per month, no more.

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