Airbus will decide on a further ramp-up of production of the A320neo-family by the middle of this year. The decision to go to rate 65 per month from the middle of 2023 was taken last year, but it’s now an increase to rate 70 or 75 that is on the table, CEO Guillaume Faury said on January 10 during a media briefing on the 2021 orders and deliveries. Airbus decides this summer on higher A320neo-family rates.
“We are still in the assessment phase of the rates for beyond 2023 to decide whether we increase the rate to, and by how much if we do so. This depends both on the demand and the supply side and this will very likely converge by the middle of this year, where we will decide what we do for 2024 and 2025”, said Faury.
“Whether we change and by how much isn’t something that will be answered in the short-term because we aren’t ready, but I would like to comment on what has happened in terms of orders and the dynamics we see in the market, with the momentum from airlines to get planes as soon as they can. It is speaking for a very likely increase of rates.” Faury said that Airbus has asked the supply chain to ‘protect’ rate 70 and go as high as rate 75.
The A320neo-family backlog increased last year, with the A321neo, -LR, and -XLR taking net 526 orders after 55 cancelations. The A320neo reported 162 cancelations, ending the year at -84 net orders. The A321neo has a backlog of 3.419 aircraft and the A319neo/A320neo of 2.420. This doesn’t include the latest announcements from Qantas and KLM/Transavia. The Australian airline will confirm its order for twenty A220-300s and twenty A321XLRs plus purchase rights at the coming Farnborough Airshow. KLM, Transavia, and Transavia France signed a firm Memorandum of Understanding for 100 A320neo/A321neo’s plus sixty purchase rights. Once confirmed later this year, these will further grow the backlog.
Officially 611 deliveries in 2021
Airbus reported 611 deliveries for 2021. The official numbers per model for December were: seven A220-300s, 33 A320neo’s, one A321ceo, 32 A321neos, one A330-300, one A330-900, thirteen A350-900s, three A350-1000s, and two A380s.
For the full year, Airbus delivered three A220-100s, 47 A220-300s, two A319ceo’s, two A319neo’s, 258 A320neo’s, 22 A321ceo’s, 199 A321neo’s. This brings the total of A320-family deliveries to 483 compared to 446 in 2020.
Also delivered were three A330-200s, one A330-300, one A330-800, thirteen A330-900s, 49 A350-900s, six A350-1000s, and five A380s.
The 611 deliveries compare to 566 in 2020 and the all-time record of 863 in 2019. On January 2, AirInsight reported 610 deliveries but in a slightly different mix. The biggest difference is in the A350-900s, where Airbus reports five more aircraft than us based on our observations for December. There was also one A330-300 that was recorded by us as being an -900.
Net orders ended at 507
Airbus received 771 gross orders, but there were cancelations for 264 aircraft, including ten A220-100s, sixteen A220-300s, seven A320ceo’s, 162 A320neo’s, 55 A321neo’s, ten A350-900s, and four A350-1000s. This brings net orders to 507 and a book-to-bill ratio of one-to-one.
By comparison: in 2020, Airbus reported 383 gross orders, 115 cancelations, and 268 net orders. In 2019, gross orders were 1131, cancelations 363, and net orders 768.
Faury and Chief Commercial Customer Christian Scherer said that 2021 had turned out better sales-wise than they expected at the start of the year. Especially in the second half, airlines and lessors were keen on ordering new Airbus aircraft and securing delivery slots for the medium to longer term. It confirms that aviation is on the road to a sustainability recovery, said Scherer. As he said in November during the Dubai Airshow, the A320neo-family is sold out until 2026, which is another reason why Airbus is keen on ramping up the production rates.
The European airframer now has a backlog of 7.082 aircraft (2020: 7.184), including 475 A220s, 2.420 A319neo/A320neo’s, 3.419 A321neo/LR/XLR, eleven A330-800s, 271 A330-900s, eleven A350Fs, 340 A350-900s, and 105 A350-900s.
Looking more closely at the deliveries again, those of the A320neo and A321neo are almost identical to the 2020 numbers. Back then, Airbus delivered 253 A320neo’s compared to 258 last year, and 178 A321neo’s versus 199 in 2021. That these numbers aren’t higher might be explained by supply chain issues with which it was confronted around the summer, when the production rate was increased from 40 to 43 per month. “In October, when we shared the Q3 results, I was quite disappointed with the September deliveries, but I anticipated that the issues would ease and we would be able to accelerate. This is what has happened. The issues we had at that time at the start of the ramp-up are predominantly behind us”, said Guillaume Faury.
Omicron causing staffing issues
That doesn’t mean there are no worries. Omicron is affecting the availability of staff across all production sites, although the effects at the moment aren’t significant. “I hope it stays like this and of course, we are monitoring it very closely”, said Faury. He is aware of the situation in China and Tianjin, where Airbus has an assembly site. All citizens have been tested for Omicron last weekend, but until now, the Airbus factory isn’t affected by it.
However, there are still some other problems: “We see other tensions here and there on many fronts like the availability of raw materials, logistics, the price of energy also to some extent, the availability of staff around the world. These are the issues on which the supply chain and ourselves are concentrating at the moment.”
Faury and Scherer weren’t willing to offer guidance on orders and deliveries in 2022. They will save this for February 17, when Airbus will report on its full-year results. But with the Qantas and KLM orders yet to be confirmed in the books, the new year looks to be off to a good start. Airbus announced another purchase agreement with US-lessor Azorra for twenty A220-300s plus two ACJ TwoTwenties.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News. From January 2023, he will add a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.