European planemaker Airbus will focus on improving its existing aircraft before rolling out new planes, says its chief executive officer. According to reports, Airbus wants to maximize the capabilities of its current aircraft and delay a competitive battle with Boeing involving any new planes for as long as it can.
Airbus wants to focus on existing platforms
In recent years, Airbus has commanded the lion’s share of new aircraft orders for narrowbody planes. While rival Boeing’s MAX plane sat grounded, sales of the A320 took off. Most aviation experts expecting the demand for narrowbody planes to exceed the demand for widebody planes for some years to come. It is a competitive advantage Airbus is keen to hang on to.
Speaking at the A4E Aviation Summit on Thursday, Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said he wanted to grow his existing family of aircraft types ahead of developing new planes.
“We have a good portfolio of platforms, we believe the evolution will be on those platforms,” a Reuters report quotes Faury saying. “We are more looking at how we are going to evolve those platforms over time, as we are doing with the A321XLR and other products, with new variants.”
Faury said systems, connectivity, energy management, and decarbonization would drive development at Airbus. He wants to focus on the A220, A320, A330, and A350 families and variants within those families. Design tweaks can stretch capabilities. Airbus can offer customers more range and greater efficiencies, all without the potential problems and costs of developing a standalone new plane.
Airbus keen to compete with Boeing & offer an A350 freighter
Guillaume Faury made his comments on Thursday amid speculation Airbus is about to offer a freighter version of their popular A350. While Airbus might enjoy a lead in the narrowbody passenger plane stakes, its rival Boeing dominates the new freighter market.
In April. Faury confirmed he was keen to use the existing A350 platform to challenge Boeing. To date, Airbus has had limited success in the freighter market. An A330 freighter program has garnered just a few dozen sales. A proposed A380 freighter program died on the drawing board.
Whether Airbus can challenge Boeing’s strength in the new freighter market with an A350 freighter remains to be seen. However, it is an example of harnessing and tweaking an existing plane rather than developing a new plane.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.
Guillaume Faury confident demand for new planes will continue
Meanwhile, the Airbus CEO is confident the demand for new planes will recover. He thinks once the vaccination rollout accelerates, more people will take to the air again.
“One thing is clear to me: people want to fly again,” Faury told Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag on the weekend. The Airbus boss was reluctant to make a call on the composition of passengers and individual markets, but he argues people will need to start moving around again. The uptick in movement will drive demand for new planes.
With most industry insiders flagging a trend towards smaller planes, Airbus has reason to be quietly confident. Traditionally, Boeing has enjoyed strong demand for its bigger planes. Airbus has built its reputation on smaller narrowbody planes. It’s a competitive advantage Airbus is keen to capitalize on this decade.