The A320 Family has been the world's best selling single-aisle aircraft for many years, with a 62 per cent share of the market in 2005.
Rather than taking its success for granted, Airbus is working with customers and suppliers to improve the family and plan for the future. The A320 Famiy's new programme head, Alain Flourens is committed to maintaining the single-aisle's dominant position in the marketplace. "It is a really exciting time to be joining the programme," he said on his appointment.
And for Stuart Mann, director product marketing A320 Family, maintaining the best possible product is Airbus' duty as a manufacturer. "We have found a way of providing the airlines of the world a better cabin that is lighter, quieter and more spacious, with bigger overhead stowage."
The improvements to the interior, already on display in the A320 cabin mock-up at Airbus' Toulouse, France headquarters, are generating positive feedback from customers and whetting their appetites for 2007, when the cabin will be installed as standard or available as a retrofit.
The sense of space inside the cabin has been increased by using smoother lines and advanced lighting technology. Innovative ceiling and sidewall panels reduce noise levels by more than a decibel and overhead stowage bins can provide 10 per cent more volume, accommodating up to five roll-on bags.
The larger stowage is crucial for low cost carriers as Stuart Mann explains: "To have bigger stowage means passengers take less time to find space for their hand baggage, and thus can speed turnaround time. Furthermore, the airlines have less baggage to handle below the floor, saving time and cost - the low cost carriers are very interested in this aspect."
Other improvements include an overall weight reduction of 50 kg. and lower maintenance costs, thanks to innovations adapted from the A380 programme.
The A320 Family's capabilities have also been extended by gaining steep approach certification for the A318. This allows airlines to offer more seats, more range and more destinations out of airports previously inaccessible to larger aircraft, such as London City Airport in the U.K.
Looking slightly further ahead, Airbus estimates that in the next 20 years there will be market demand for around 900 small freighters, with less than 30 tonnes of payload. The company has signed a preliminary co-operation agreement with two companies to develop a freighter conversion business that will focus on A320 and A321 aircraft. The first Airbus converted freighters are expected to enter service in 2011.