Airbus wrapped up the 2018 Farnborough Airshow with a presence that could be best described as “massive,” announcing that it won new business for 431 single-aisle and widebody aircraft during the biennial aerospace gathering; and introducing a double-deck A380 available for ‘wet lease’ by Portugal’s Hi Fly.
According to Chief Commercial Officer Eric Schulz, key messages of the transactions announced this week include: the A220 single-aisle jetliner’s strong market position based on Airbus’ new relationship with Canada’s Bombardier; the continued market leadership of the A320 Family, driven by the operational advantages of its New Engine Option (NEO) versions; and the attractiveness of A350 XWBs and A330/A330neo aircraft as the global widebody sector shows renewed strength.
The new business detailed during the Farnborough Airshow involved a total of 431 commercial aircraft – composed of 93 firm orders and 338 Memoranda of Understanding. It comprised 60 A220-300s, 304 A320 Family aircraft, 42 A330neo jetliners and 25 A350 XWBs.
A220 market penetration
Speaking to journalists at Airbus’ Farnborough wrap-up press conference, Schulz explained he was energised by the A220’s market penetration in the weeks since Airbus’ majority stake in the partnership with Bombardier and Investissement Québec came into effect for the aircraft family previously known as the C Series.
“Having taken charge of the A220’s sales and marketing activity only two weeks ago, we’ve been able to conclude two major orders,” Schulz said, referring to a future start-up airline’s commitment for 60 A220-300 versions revealed at Farnborough, which followed JetBlue’s Memorandum of Understanding earlier this month for 60 aircraft in the A220-300 configuration.
“Building on the previous commercial efforts of Bombardier, we’re bringing the major resources of Airbus today – especially with our expertise in the single-aisle market,” he told journalists. “Customers are reassured by the big Airbus organisation; they know the support is there for training and maintenance, as two examples.”
A220 + A320 = flexibility
Schulz also pointed to the flexibility now offered by Airbus with its product coverage in both the regional airliner segment and for larger single-aisle jetliners.
“With the combination of Airbus and Bombardier on the A320 and A220, customers are starting to perceive that if their market grows faster, they can go for a bigger aircraft; if the conditions are slower, they can move into a smaller airplane,” he added. “This works quite well, and I believe that by year-end, we will prove the efficiency and flexibility of the combination.”
Vietjet to expand its A320 Family fleet
Underscoring the continued strength of Airbus’ A320 Family, announcements at Farnborough today included two new single-aisle aircraft signings: a Memorandum of Understanding with Vietnam’s Vietjet for an additional 50 A321neo aircraft; and an undisclosed customer’s Memorandum of Understanding for 10 A320neo aircraft.
On hand at Farnborough for the Vietjet signing ceremony was the airline’s Vice President, Dinh Viet Phuong, who acknowledged Airbus’ support throughout the development of this young airline – which has become a leading low-cost carrier in Asia. “Airbus has been with us since Day 1, fully helping us, even with such infrastructure support as improving air traffic control in Vietnam,” he said.
This latest agreement brings Vietjet’s A320 Family order backlog to 129 aircraft in the A321neo and A321ceo (Current Engine Option) versions.
AirAsia X: the largest airline customer for A330neo jetliners
Today’s other major announcement at Farnborough was AirAsia X’s order for an additional 34 widebody A330neo jetliners. This increases Air Asia X’s overall A330neo orders to 100 – all for the A330-900 version (the longest-fuselage member of Airbus’ A330neo Family), reaffirming this carrier’s position as the largest airline customer for the A330neo aircraft.
“We did a three-year review in coming to terms on this order as we looked for aircraft suitable for our growth expansion, and it is a testament to Airbus and its A330 on how they will help AirAsia in our business growth expansion,” said Kamarudin Meranun, AirAsia X Group Chief Executive Officer.
Hi Fly makes a big entrance with its ‘wet lease’ A380
In addition to the large volume of new business unveiled at Farnborough, Airbus’ presence on the air show’s static display line literally was ‘supersized’ with the morning arrival of Hi Fly’s colourfully-painted A380, which is to be offered to operators on ‘wet lease’ – an arrangement that provides the aircraft with its crew, maintenance and insurance.
Hi Fly already is an all-Airbus wet lease specialist, and Hi Fly President and CEO Paulo Mirpuri said the company will build on its 12 years of operating widebody A330s and A340s in support of some 140 airlines – with flights performed to over 400 airports. The A380 offered for lease by Hi Fly is a second-hand aircraft previously flown by a scheduled airline, and is from the inventory of Doric GmbH as the asset-owner and lessor to Hi Fly.
“The A380 is mature and reliable; hundreds of airports already are certified for the aircraft with many more added every year; and passengers appreciate the extra-large cabin, its comfort and quietness,” Mirpuri explained.
With the recent launch of its marketing campaign for the A380’s wet lease, Mirpuri said the market reaction has exceed Hi Fly’s expectations. “We already have many carriers lining up to be the first to sign for this A380’s availability,” he said. “We’ve received hundreds of requests, and potential uses could be for an A380 operator which has one of its aircraft undergoing scheduled maintenance checks; as well as airlines that want to test an A380 on their operations…even to uses that I originally didn’t think about, such as around-the-world tours.”
Airbus evaluates an A320neo multi-mission version
Having made its mark in the commercial airline sector, the A320neo is now being considered by Airbus for new applications: as a highly-capable and cost-effective platform for ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) duties and as a military transport.
The variant – designated A320M3A – would be designed to fulfill a range of ISR roles, particularly maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare. It also can be outfitted with modular roll-on/roll-off payloads for airlift missions ranging from carrying passengers, troops and VIPs to medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) and transporting cargo.
Airbus’ consideration of the A320M3A is in response to market demand, spurred by the growing use of more capable ISR systems – which require physically larger host platforms with increased electrical power and more efficient cooling systems than previously were the case for C4ISR aircraft.