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Air Transat’s first Airbus A321neo. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Airbus to Add A321 Production Capacity in Toulouse

In a move that will be welcomed by a number of its airline partners, Airbus announced this week that the company will increase the production capacity of its popular A321 at its Toulouse facility.  Airbus Chief Operating Officer Michael Schoellhorn said: “We are enjoying an unprecedented high demand for our winning A320neo Family and especially its A321 Long Range (LR) and Xtra Long Range (XLR) derivatives. In order to optimize the industrial flow, we have decided to increase our global A321 production capacity and flexibility as well as to establish a next generation Final Assembly Line (FAL) in Toulouse.”

The ‘digitally-enabled’ A321 production line will replace the current A380 FAL in mid-2022 as the production of the superjumbo comes to an end.

A321 aircraft have proven popular with airlines seeking to take advantage of the increased efficiencies which the aircraft will bring. Airbus has been promoting a 30 percent lower fuel burn per seat for the A321XLR (Xtra Long Range) aircraft which it debuted at the Paris Air Show in 2019 and is expected to enter into service in 2023. The aircraft which has a range of 4,700 nautical miles racked up a total of 229 orders in the few days after its debut. By the end of 2019, it has been estimated that the number now totals over 450 orders from 22 airlines including United Airlines, Qantas, Iberia and Air Asia X.

An A321XLR mockup. (Photo: Airbus)

Popularity of the Airbus A321 family may have been accelerated by the continued grounding of the 737 MAX and the associated turmoil at Airbus’ main rival Boeing. This situation has seen a number of airlines with all Boeing fleets considering the possibility of adding the A321 to their operations.

Airlines who were expected to increase orders for the 737 MAX such as American Airlines have now turned to the European manufacturer to assist in solving the issue of supplying capacity to satisfy passenger demand.

Airline customers have been expressing frustration of delays from Airbus as the A321 FALs at Hamburg, Germany and Mobile, Alabama have been under pressure to deliver to customer deadlines. Last year Wizz Air’s Chief Executive József Váradi said that aircraft manufacturers were “struggling with delivering their commitments to the operators.”

Whilst acknowledging the Boeing situation he added that “Airbus is not much better either,” and that the manufacturers “are simply failing to deliver their contractual commitments.”

Earlier this week Aer Lingus detailed the impact delays to its A321LR orders were having on the Irish carrier’s current network and expansion plans. Also this week India’s GoAir announced it would need to cancel future scheduled flights for which it had already commenced selling tickets due to delays in aircraft deliveries from Airbus and issues with Pratt and Whitney engines.

A statement from GoAir said: “We have been informed by our business partners Airbus and Pratt & Whitney of their inability to deliver previously promised aircraft and engines through March 9, 2020, that are required to support our current growth. As a result, we have been forced to temporarily suspend certain flights that are part of our network, schedule and open for sale.”

John Flett
John Flett
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