Airbus and Boeing have been engaged in fierce competition over many different aircraft markets. From narrowbodies to very large aircraft, both manufacturers have shifted their strategies to what they think would be a successful product. With Boeing’s impending 777X entry into service and the launch of the 797, the question remains: what’s next for Airbus?
The A320 Family
Boeing has their 737, Airbus loves their A320. These single-aisle jets can be utilized for a whole host of flights. The A320 can span transcontinental flights, like from New York to Los Angeles or short-haul flights from London to Paris. A comfortable ride, the derivatives give a whole range of opportunities for airlines to expand. From the small 120-132 passenger A318 to the larger 200-passenger A321, one family can make up the entire fleet of some airlines.
By operating one family, airlines can save a lot of money. Many low-cost carriers, like Wizz Air or Easyjet, will choose one aircraft family for their fleet. With common type ratings across the entire family, Wizz Air doesn’t have to worry about retraining pilots. In addition, significant cost savings can come in maintenance since staff only need to be aware of one family of aircraft. It also helps with substitutions since cabin crew can easily transfer from an A319 to an A320, as long as minimum staffing rules are followed.
Airbus, however, has a lot to learn from Boeing. The future seeks to make flying safer through a vast number of technological improvements. While Boeing attempted to do that, it seems, that from preliminary reports this turned out to be a disaster. Airbus will undoubtedly make improvements to the A320 and sell it as a brand new jet. With a focus on fuel efficiency and improved technology, a new aircraft line could propel Airbus ahead of the game as Boeing struggles to keep airlines confident in their 737 MAX.
Countering the 797
The middle of the market is a coveted niche in the aircraft realm. Airbus is seeking to capture this market on both ends. Seating up to 244 in a single-class, high-density configuration, the A321LR is perfect for catching the thinner, long-haul routes currently operated by 757s.
At the other end of the scale, Airbus is looking to take their A330neo to capture the higher end of the spectrum. Old and weary 767s and, in the future, A330s will need to be replaced with an aircraft that can seat 230-250 passengers in a 2-class (or 3-class) configuration. The A330-800 could fit that bill. Considering that Airbus is not developing a whole new aircraft like the 797, they could beat Boeing in the race to introduce an aircraft to fill the middle of the market. We’ll have to see what Airbus comes up with, but this could be a huge market for the manufacturer.
Airbus launched the A350 as a direct competitor to Boeing’s 787. Designed with the latest technology and comfort on a widebody, long-haul airliner, this aircraft is an airline favorite. Singapore Airlines, Delta Airlines, Qatar Airways, and many other airlines already operate the A350 and a whole host more have A350s on order.
Airbus could seriously make a splash with an A350neo. If timed right, this aircraft could kick in for the replacement cycles of some 777 models, A330s, or even A380s! Twin-engine aircraft are the new standard in long-haul flying, and the A350 is almost unbeatable. Singapore Airlines operates a special version, the A350-900ULR, on the world’s longest flight from Singapore to Newark.
By tweaking design features, such as offering increased takeoff weight while lowering fuel burn without compromising range, a revamped A350neo could be the perfect fit for airlines like Qantas, who are looking to introduce economically viable ultra long-haul flights that can operate with significant capacity.
Airbus recently took over the A220 from Bombardier. This gave them access to a brand new market of narrowbody planes that are capable of conquering routes both long and short. Airbus attempted to reach into this market with the A318, however, the A318 came too soon when airlines weren’t looking for a jet that could seat 110-120 passengers with the same versatility as the A220.
The A220 could last for a long time. Airlines have been versatile in how they use this aircraft. Air Baltic is looking to use these aircraft as their primary hub-and-spoke aircraft, while Delta Airlines is using these aircraft at first to replace regional jets on high demand and high competition routes such as between New York and Houston.
This kind of versatility is definitely prized by airlines. Startup “Moxy” Airlines singled out the A220 as the best aircraft for their operations. Founder David Neeleman touted the aircraft’s ability to do transcontinental and transatlantic flights as the reason Moxy selected the aircraft.
Overall, Airbus is in a solid position with their aircraft line. They’ve solidified some brand new aircraft that will keep them flying well into the future. Given the introductory timeline of these aircraft, it will be some time before Airbus really needs to design a brand new aircraft. Most likely, Airbus will seek to launch a new narrowbody plane before launching a new widebody.
After the A380, Airbus has learned a lot of lessons in aircraft development. Now, we wait and see for the next new plane from Airbus.
What do you think will come next? Let us know in the comments below!