Speaking at Airbus’ year-opening press conference, President and CEO Fabrice Brégier said 2015 priorities in preparing the future include: the A320neo (new engine option) jetliner’s service entry in the fourth quarter; delivery start-up in May of A330s with an increased 242-metric tonne maximum takeoff weight; transition of the A330neo variant into detailed development later this year; and production ramp-up for the A350-900, along with pre-assembly preparations for the longer-fuselage A350-1000 version – the first of which is to enter the final assembly line in early 2016.
“In the coming year, we also will focus on our competitiveness by continuing to reduce costs, being more efficient, faster in our developments, and further increasing quality in our deliveries,” he told international reporters gathered in the Airbus Delivery Centre at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport in southwestern France.
Incremental innovation will remain at the heart of Airbus’ product line development, with Brégier citing the A320neo Family’s success as an example of how this approach meets market demand – having booked 3,621 orders through December 2014 for the new engine option family of single-aisle jetliners.
Market endorsement of Airbus’ incremental innovation strategy
“This is a very strong endorsement of our strategy,” he explained. “What I want is that we move faster, for more innovation that perhaps is simpler – but which will be much more rapid in meeting customer demand.”
The latest example of incremental innovation is today’s official launch for Airbus’ longer-range A321neo version, as Air Lease Corporation becomes the first to select this option that incorporates an additional fuel tank in the aircraft’s forward underfloor hold, as well as minor improvements on the wing and fuselage. With an increased maximum takeoff weight of 97 tonnes, the A321neo variant will have a 4,000-NM. range – the longest of any single-aisle jetliner.
John Leahy, Airbus’ Chief Operating Officer – Customers, said the longer-range A321neo version extends the A320neo Family’s market reach, enabling this latest variant to operate on such flights as the U.S. East Coast to Europe; from Northern Europe to Asia; on routes between Australia and Southeast Asia; from Europe to the Middle East and West Africa; and north-south routes in the Americas.
“This aircraft goes after the market that everyone said needed a replacement: segments flown by the old 757-200s, where single-aisle jetliners are used on long-range operations,” said Leahy. “We foresee some 500 aircraft in replacement, but it’s more: there’s another 500 aircraft for growth from new market opportunities that can be flown by the long-range A321neo, which will burn about 30 per cent less fuel.”
2014: a good year for Airbus’ single-aisle and widebody jetliner families
In addition to 2014’s strong bookings for Airbus’ single-aisle A320neo and A320ceo (current engine option) families, last year marked a good performance for Airbus’ widebody products – including the A350 XWB and the A330neo.
As one example, Brégier cited the decision of U.S.-based Delta Air Lines to select the A330neo for its transatlantic services and the A350 for the carrier’s transpacific routes. “This confirms the quality of our A330 and A350, which complement each other, and together form the strongest long-range jetliner family in the world.”
Brégier said Airbus also continues to see a bright future for its A380, based on the excellent results of the current 13 airline operators and its passenger popularity, along with the continued growth in air traffic worldwide.
“The priority today is finding other customers for the A380’s current version; we believe we can and we will do this – because the A380 is the most efficient, today and tomorrow,” he added.
Incremental innovation also is being applied to the A380 in the near term. The possibility of higher-density cabins is now being offered – with 11-abreast seating in economy class, as an example, while still retaining Airbus’ 18-inch seat width comfort standard for long-range flights.
“In the longer term, I believe we will move to evolutions of the A380: one might well be an A380neo concept – meaning some upgrades of the aircraft, together with a re-engining; which would make sense,” Brégier concluded. “As the A380 is a young platform, we will continue improving this aircraft in the coming 20 years. There probably even could be a stretched version – depending on the market demand, and looking at what we can do technically and financially.”
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