Airbus released its production figures earlier this year and the results were impressive – especially for A320 family aircraft. The European planemaker was able to produce 551 A320neo family aircraft for 2019 – a huge leap from 386 in 2018. However, the coronavirus outbreak might throw a wrench into the works and stop the swift momentum the company had. Will Airbus have the same strong level of performance in 2020? Let’s take a look.
An incredibly popular jet
Airbus’ single-aisle A320 line of aircraft were designed to go head to head with the Boeing 737. Without a doubt, the product has achieved this purpose and has kept Boeing on-edge ever since. In fact, Airbus says that an A320 is landing or taking off somewhere in the world every 1.6 seconds.
Giving Boeing and its 737 fierce competition has been especially true for the newer A320neo line of aircraft. The new improvements in fuel efficiency and range have been huge selling points for Airbus and has allowed it to acquire nearly 800 orders in 2019.
This popularity has spurred Airbus on to increase its production levels to try and keep up with demand. Even so, there’s still a backlog that extends well into 2025 – a testament to the trust that airlines place in this small single-aisle plane.
Producing the aircraft at the rate that it has, is no small feat for Airbus. A global supply chain that even involves a fleet of cargo ships makes it all possible – as components need to move between facilities around the world. Currently Airbus A320 production takes place at four sites around the world:
- Toulouse, France
- Hamburg, Germany
- Tianjin, China
- Mobile (Alabama), United States
Speaking about the A320 line and production levels, Airbus’ CEO had this to say at the company’s annual earnings conference in February:
We are in discussions for further ramp up beyond rate 63 with our supply chain and we already see a clear path to further increase the monthly production rates by one of two for each of the two years after 2021. -Guillaume Faury, CEO, Airbus
As you can see, Airbus seems quite set on getting production numbers to even higher levels than 2019. Part of this plan involves converting its A380 Lagardère facility in Toulouse to a final assembly line for the A321neo. However, this won’t have a full effect on 2020 numbers as the transition is expected to occur by mid-2022. On this topic, this is what the company’s Chief Operating Officer had to say about the aircraft and production:
We are enjoying an unprecedented high demand for our winning A320neo Family and especially its A321 Long Range (LR) and Xtra Long Range (XLR) derivatives. In order to optimize the industrial flow, we have decided to increase our global A321 production capacity and flexibility as well as to establish a next generation Final Assembly Line in Toulouse -Michael Schoellhorn, Airbus Chief Operating Officer
Coronavirus spoiling Airbus’ momentum
Of course, all of this ramp-up talk was recorded while the coronavirus outbreak was mostly contained to China. While things seem fairly bright for Airbus – the one big question at this time has to do with the coronavirus outbreak.
Since mid-February, we have seen more intense outbreaks – namely in South Korea, Italy, and Iran. This has greatly decreased demand for air travel.
Already we are seeing airlines request to defer their deliveries due to huge decreases in demand for air travel. Airbus says that it is monitoring the situation closely and will adapt to the situation as needed.
Do you think the coronavirus outbreak has already scuttled Airbus’ chances of beating their 2019 output levels? Let us know in the comments.