Turkish Airlines Is 39 Aircraft Behind Its 2020 Narrowbody Fleet Goal

Turkish Airlines is adjusting its expectations for 2020 aircraft deliveries as Airbus deals with delays to its A321neo program. The airline was expecting 30 of the aircraft type by the end of this year but has lowered the number down to 26. Add to this the 737 MAX grounding and the absence of deliveries from Boeing for the type and Turkish Airlines is down quite a few narrowbody jets.

Turkish Airlines Airbus A321neo
Turkish Airlines’ Airbus A321neos are all less than two years old. Photo: Raimond Spekking via Wikimedia Commons

Lowering expectations

The story is a familiar one. We wrote about the airline having to adjust its A321neo expectations for 2019 last August. 13 A321neos were expected last year – taking its overall fleet to 15. However, the airline only received 12.

And now 2020 is off to a similar note with Turkish Airlines originally expecting 15 A321neo deliveries for the year. However, according to FlightGlobal it has now reduced this to 12 in its latest schedule.

There are even more issues with the airline’s single-aisle acquisitions due to the Boeing 737 MAX grounding. It appeared that Turkish Airlines was expecting to receive 38 of the aircraft this year but its latest schedule shows that it is playing it safe and assuming they may not come by the end of 2020. While the FAA and other civil aviation regulators may approve its return by mid-June, the grounded aircraft would need to go through a lengthy servicing process to ensure all jets are in good working order. And a mid-June re-certification still isn’t 100% guaranteed.

As a result of the above issues, the airline lists 239 single-aisle jets as its end-of-2020 expectation, rather than 278.

Turkish Airlines Boeing
Turkish Airlines has almost 100 Boeing 737 aircraft in operation, but it still cannot operate the MAX. Photo: Getty Images

What’s going on at Airbus?

While the 737 MAX situation and its delivery-delays to airlines has received a healthy amount of coverage, the Airbus A321neo situation has been less prominent.

Despite being more under the radar than the MAX crisis, Airbus has been dealing with ongoing production problems with the A321neo. FlightGlobal reports that this is because Airbus is working through the complexity of producing three versions simultaneously: the A321ceo, A321neo and A321 ACF/LR (Airbus Cabin Flex/Long Range).

“Our priority is to prepare the production system for sustainable long-term growth with more A321s. That’s one of the areas of challenge we have to manage…We are stabilising our delays in spite of the ramp-up, and then from 2021 we want to be back on track. Between stabilising and resolving, it takes more time.” -Guillaume Faury, Airbus CEO at the 2019 Dubai Air Show

Turkish Airlines Is 39 Aircraft Behind Its 2020 Narrowbody Fleet Goal
Airbus facilities in Hamburg handle some A320 family production. Photo: Getty Images

Not just Turkish Airlines

It’s not just Turkish that has had to deal with these delays. There are numerous Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A321neo customers suffering from the respective delays. In fact, aircraft lessor Avolon has had its order of A321neos delayed until 2022 – later than it was originally expecting.

In an interview with Cirium, Avolon president John Higgins expressed his displeasure on the topic: “That’s very frustrating for us and for our customers. It has an impact…There are mechanisms in our purchase agreement where we are entitled to compensation for delayed delivery and we are not shy about pursuing that.”

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Aer Lingus has ordered 8 A321NEO aircraft. Photo: Aer Lingus

Furthermore, expansion plans for Irish carrier Aer Lingus are on hold because of its own issues with A321neo delivery delays. According to Airline Geeks, the airline’s chief executive Sean Doyle spoke at a conference in Dublin saying “I was counting on having four Airbus A321neo LR aircraft last summer…Instead, we had one. I still only have three – the fourth comes in February.”

Aer Lingus has delayed its new service to Montreal to early 2022. Originally, the service was actually supposed to commence in August 2019.

Conclusion

It seems, for now, some delays are actually coming at an opportune time as the coronavirus outbreak has reduced passenger traffic for many airlines around the world. In fact, AirAsia X wants to delay deliveries of its A330neo because of the impact of the outbreak.

Of course, with the complexities of airline orders and the manufacturing process, it’s not easy to take a delayed delivery and instantly make it an on-time delivery for an airline that’s further along in the queue. If we assume that the coronavirus outbreak will come to an end before the summer, then many of these airlines will still have to deal with insufficient capacity for a peak travel period.

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