Airbus SAS said it’s A330 twin-aisle jet could remain in production for another decade as low-cost airlines led by Ryanair Holdings Plc seek cut-price planes for the introduction of long-haul services.
Airbus builds 10 A330s a month and will sustain that record pace through 2015, with output of the model likely to span at least 10 years even as the replacement A350 enters production, John Leahy, the company’s chief salesman, said in London.
Leahy said he’s “bullish” on low-cost wide-body flights, which Ryanair Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary says may become more attractive as fleet costs shrink. AirAsia X Bhd., a unit of Asia’s largest discount airline, is faring “very well” on long-haul trips using a fleet of A330s, and while no-frills carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle SA has chosen Boeing Co.’s 787, which burns 10 percent less fuel, the Airbus model remains competitive because of the low capital outlay, Leahy said.
“The bottom line is you will make money with the A330- 200,” Leahy said in London, adding that Airbus expects to book more A330 orders this year after Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc. agreed to buy 10 more.
Airbus is also working on an A330 optimized for regional operations — trading performance for fuel burn by de-rating engines and imposing a lower maximum takeoff weight — which might also appeal to discounters, with a similar concept in work for the A350, the executive said.
Ryanair, Europe’s biggest discount airline, has said a trans-Atlantic service would most likely be operated under a new brand and require 40 or 50 jets should plane prices come down.
Airbus is developing the A350 to replace the A330 and the four-engine A340, with the initial version, the -900, completing its first flight in June. The plane has met its performance specification in flight trials so far, Leahy said.
The Toulouse, France-based company still plans to build the A350-800, a smaller model supplanting the A330, though the timing is driven by airline demand, with talks ongoing to establish whether carriers are willing to pay the premium for a more efficient plane, he said.
By the year’s end, Leahy also expects Airbus to decide whether to build a dedicated assembly line for the A350-1000, the largest version, to free capacity for additional -900s.
It may also boost output of single-aisle A320s by one or two planes a month beyond the current 42 even before the re- engined Neo model becomes available in 2015, Leahy said.
Production of A380 superjumbos will remain at 25 to 30 jets a year, he said, even as Airbus forecasts demand for around 1,334 very large aircraft over 20 years. The company has open production slots in 2015 for A380s that could go to existing customers, with capacity available for new buyers from 2016.
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