Airbus SE is confident its global supplier base can overcome pressures induced by the COVID-19 pandemic and boost output for the company’s workhorse A320 aircraft family, despite the “unprecedented” labor and materials strains complicating that effort, CEO Guillaume Faury said.
Faury reaffirmed the company’s plan to boost A320 output from 40 per month currently to 64 a month in 2023, and said Airbus remains interested in reaching 75 per month around mid-decade.
It is essential the planemaker’s vast supply chain have those ambitious, longer-term targets in mind as it manages through the current turmoil, he said.
“We’re in an unprecedented situation in terms of tension in the supply chain, and we need to start the ramp up,” Faury said.
Airbus suppliers have been hit by raw material shortages, surging logistics costs and labor deficiencies. The challenges are broad, versus the critical shortage of semiconductors that has idled automobile assembly lines from Detroit to Tokyo, for example, Faury said.
Airbus has sent teams to supplier locations to help sort out problems, among other steps to address the issues, he said.
“We think they’ll manage to get on top of it, but it will take time because we’re just restarting from a very low level of activity,” he said. “But it needs to go fast for the A320 family, which is the biggest driver for us.”
Airbus is currently assessing the business case of going beyond 64 A320 jets per month and potentially reaching as many as 75 a month by mid-decade, and that internal study is slated to conclude next year, Faury said.
“We’re just at the beginning of a journey from 40 to 64,” he said. “In 2022, we’ll need to have a good understanding of what we want to do in 2025 or 2026.”
Separately, jet-leasing firm Avolon Holdings Ltd plans to work with Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd (IAI) to convert 30 Airbus wide-bodies for use as freighters, targeting an area in which demand has soared during the pandemic.
The A330-300 passenger jets are to be converted between 2025 and 2028, the company said in a statement yesterday.
It is the first Airbus project for IAI, which has long converted Boeing Co jets, the dominant player in the freighter market.
Air freight has been a rare bright spot for global aviation, as online purchases soar and shipping rates rise. That has fed higher demand for dedicated freighters, which has only intensified with recent global supply chain snarls.
Air cargo revenue is expected to reach US$150 billion this year, with traffic doubling over the next 20 years, Avolon said.
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