European manufacturer Airbus has today confirmed what was expected – production rates will remain lower for longer than expected. Widebody production rates will remain as they are today for some time. However, the bright spot of the announcement is that single-aisle plane production rates are planned to be gradually ramped up in response to the demand for these aircraft.
Airbus confirms production ramp up, but only for narrowbody planes
Airbus has today revealed its firm plans for production rates for the rest of 2020. Its announcement states that, in general, production rates will remain lower than pre-COVID for longer than originally anticipated. However, the good news is that some families of aircraft will begin to be ramped up as the year progresses.
Staying stagnant is the widebody line. Both the A350 and A330 have been produced at a reduced rate since early in the crisis, and Airbus anticipates keeping them at this lower rate at least until the end of the year. Specifically, this is five aircraft a month for the A350 and two for the A330.
However, on the single-aisle front, Airbus sees a ray of hope. The new average production rates for the A320 family will continue to stick at 40 per month for the first half of the year. But in Q3, Airbus hopes to bring this up to 43 per month and 45 per month in Q4, 2021.
On the A220 side, monthly production will be scaled up more quickly. From the end of Q1, the planemaker will move from four to five aircraft per month. Overall, Airbus forecasts the market to remain depressed until around 2023 to 2025.
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Airbus slowed production in 2020
Back at the very start of the global health crisis, Airbus put the brakes on its production completely for a period of four days. This was, at the time, in order to implement stringent health and safety conditions to protect its workers across its facilities. However, when the workers came back to the factories, production didn’t go back to where it was.
By early April, the planemaker had reduced overall aircraft production by around one third, with widebodies in particular affected. From the previous target of 10 A350s a month, Airbus would turn out just six, and on the A330 production line, monthly quotas were reduced from 3.25 to just two. By the summer, the A350 rate had been reduced to just five.
But it wasn’t only the widebodies affected. Indeed, given the widespread slump in travel, even in the short-haul market, Airbus trimmed down its single-aisle targets too. From the forecast of 60 aircraft a month expected in 2020, it narrowed this rate to 40 aircraft per month. During the worst of the crisis, the manufacturer stated it didn’t expect production to return to normal until around 2025.
However, Airbus had a strong finish to the year, delivering as many planes as its target for 2020, and far exceeding rival Boeing’s end of year result. Buoyed by this, the planemaker was expected to press on with a ramp-up in production levels, particularly on the narrowbody, early in 2021.
Now, today, we have had the confirmation that production will increase, although, at this stage, it is limited to the single-aisle line only. The recovery of regional and domestic markets in some parts of the world hints at a strong rebound for these aircraft. While the future of the widebodies is less certain at this stage, the hope brought by the vaccine could change everything by this time next year.