Airbus continues to target a delivery total of “around 700 aircraft” this year despite persistent supply chain constraints, though CEO Guillaume Faury acknowledged that reaching that guidance will prove “challenging” after the airframer handed over only 437 commercial aircraft in the first nine months of 2022.
“This leaves us with about 260 aircraft that need to be delivered in the fourth quarter, which is challenging,” Faury said during the company’s third-quarter earnings call on Friday. “We know it is a lot, but we believe it is doable…We reviewed the situation earlier this week and a lot of work is ongoing to make sure the planes go through the production cycle, flight tests, and so on.” Airbus experienced a similarly backloaded end of the year in 2018. “It is not a situation we like,” Faury added. “We prefer a much more normalized and linear year. But this is where we are.”
The European OEM is less dependent on supply chain deliveries than it was a couple of months ago, Faury said, noting also that engine makers were now meeting their commitments. “This gives us more visibility on what we can do from a supply chain,” he said, conceding that pushing the aircraft timely through the subcomponents pre-assembly zone and final assembly lines (FAL) now mainly “rests on the Airbus shoulders.” Faury’s comments differ from these of Boeing CEO David Calhoun, who on Wednesday identified engine suppliers’ issues as the main obstacle to reaching full delivery capacity.
However, like his U.S. counterpart, Faury said he expects it will take until “at least” the middle of next year for the supply chain to normalize and overcome the cumulative effect of Covid, the war in Ukraine, energy supply shortages, and constrained labor markets. Therefore, 2023 will likely be another backloaded year for aircraft deliveries, he cautioned.
Also speaking during the earnings call, Airbus CFO Dominik Asam described the single-aisle market as “red hot” and said the company sees demand for widebody aircraft improving. Airbus registered gross commercial orders for 856 airplanes in the first nine months of 2022, resulting in a net order count of 647 aircraft after cancellations. The order backlog amounted to 7,294 commercial aircraft at the end of September.
To meet its delivery commitments to customers, Airbus will proceed with previously announced plans to boost the output of the A320 family to a rate of 65 aircraft per month in early 2024 and 75 in 2025. “The groundwork continues throughout all sites to secure rate 75 and adapt to the higher proportion of A321s in the backlog, ensuring all A320-family FAL become A321 capable,” Faury said. The company also remains on course for a rate of 14 A220s per month by the middle of the decade, while A330 production rates approach three per month and work continues on bringing A350 rates up to six aircraft per month in early 2023. On widebody aircraft, Faury said the airframer is exploring, together with its supply chain, the feasibility of further rate increases to meet growing market demand as international air travel recovers.
Regarding the A321XLR, Faury said the aircraft’s entry-into-service (EIS) would take place in the second quarter of 2024. Previously, Airbus said it expected the type’s EIS in “early 2024.” Faury attributed the “more specific” EIS timing to the recently reached conclusions on the certification requirements and standards. All three test A321XLRs have now flown, he said.