Airbus tells suppliers to gear up for record production on bestselling jets

Aerospace giant predicts strong but belated Covid recovery amid move to raise A320 output to 64 per month by 2023

Last modified on Thu 27 May 2021 04.57 EDT

Airbus has told suppliers it plans for record production of its bestselling planes within two years in a sign of the manufacturer’s hopes for a belated but strong recovery for aviation from the coronavirus pandemic.

The European manufacturer on Thursday said it would increase production of A320 single-aisle aircraft to 45 per month by October, up from 40.

However, it said suppliers should be ready for a rate of 64 per month by the spring of 2023 for the A320, which is well suited to short-haul travel that is expected to bounce back the quickest. That would beat its previous highest rate target of 63, and would be followed by 70 per month at the start of 2024 and as high as 75 by 2025.

The aerospace industry has endured months of weak demand for planes during the pandemic as airline customers cut back on orders as their revenues dried up. Airbus and its US rival, Boeing, together cut tens of thousands of jobs worldwide as demand plummeted. Demand for Boeing planes was hit further by the crisis over its previously top-selling 737 Max, which was grounded for over a year after two fatal crashes caused by malfunctions.

Confusion still reigns over when people across the world will be allowed to travel for tourism purposes. Airline and holiday firm bosses on Wednesday attacked the UK government’s “utterly confusing” advice on foreign travel.

However, aerospace analysts have long expected demand for air travel – alongside the sector’s carbon emissions – to overtake pre-pandemic levels rapidly once vaccines start to diminish the risks of the coronavirus. In the long term, the growth of the middle class in Asia and Africa is expected to continue the structural growth in flight numbers.

“The aviation sector is beginning to recover from the Covid-19 crisis,” said Guillaume Faury, Airbus’s chief executive. “The message to our supplier community provides visibility to the entire industrial ecosystem to secure the necessary capabilities and be ready when market conditions call for it.”

The steep 2020 production cuts at Airbus and Boeing rippled through the industry, with suppliers such as the UK’s Rolls-Royce, which makes and maintains engines, particularly badly hit. Airbus shares rose by 6% while Rolls-Royce shares gained 3% on Thursday morning.

Record Airbus sales would likely mean a correlated rise in total carbon dioxide emissions from its products, even as the efficiency of individual planes increases. In February, Airbus revealed that it expects planes sold during 2019 and 2020 to emit more than 1bn tonnes of carbon dioxide during their lifetimes.

Airbus also plans to increase production of its small single-aisle A220 from five per month to six by early 2022, and 14 per month around 2025. The twin-aisle A350 will increase from five to six by autumn 2022, reflecting the slower expected recovery in long-haul travel.

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