Airbus entered 2019 with new company records, building on the success of the previous several years.
In 2018, Airbus delivered a total of 800 commercial aircraft to 93 customers worldwide – meeting its full year delivery guidance and setting a new company record. The number of deliveries has continued to increase annually for 16 years in a row.
In terms of sales, Airbus achieved 747 net orders during 2018 compared with 1,109 net orders in 2017.
Airbus began 2019 with a commercial aircraft backlog of 7,577 jetliners, setting a new record for the industry.
This includes 480 A220s – the result of a European-Canadian partnership with Bombardier that saw two of the Canadian manufacturer’s jetliners brought into the Airbus commercial aircraft product line.
Designated A220-100 and A220-300, these aircraft have been designed and purpose-built for the 100-150 seat market.
Airbus delivered 800 commercial aircraft to customers in 2018, setting a new record for the company.
Airbus delivery milestones in the thousands
On 20 May, Airbus celebrated the delivery of its 12,000th commercial jetliner in the company’s 50-year history. The milestone aircraft – an A220-100 – was assembled in Mirabel, Canada and handed over to U.S.-based Delta Air Lines, highlighting the growing presence of Airbus in North America.
As the smallest jetliner in Airbus’ in-production product line, the A220-100 is a member of the A220 Family – purpose-built for the 100-150 seat market, with unbeatable fuel efficiency and comfort.
Airbus delivered its very first aircraft (an A300B2 widebody twin-engine jetliner) to Air France in 1974; in 2010, the company handed over its 6,000th jetliner. The pace continued to accelerate, taking Airbus just nine years to double that number, reaching the milestone 12,000th Airbus aircraft delivery in May 2019.
In September, Airbus surpassed the 9,000th overall delivery mark for its best-selling A320 Family, while the following month saw the handover of the 1,000th A320-series jetliner in the NEO version.
An Airbus A220-100 provided to Delta Air Lines on 20 May 2019 at the A220 final assembly plant in Mirabel, Canada was the 12,000th aircraft delivered by Airbus since 1974.
China’s agreement for 300 jetliners
In March, Airbus expanded its civil aviation partnership with China, signing a General Terms Agreement (GTA) covering the purchase of 300 aircraft by Chinese airlines.
The GTA comprises 290 A320 Family jetliners and 10 A350 XWBs, reflecting the strong demand in all market segments by Chinese carriers – including domestic, low-cost, regional and international long haul.
Signing the GTA in Paris, France were Guillaume Faury, President of Airbus Commercial Aircraft and future Airbus CEO; and Jia Baojun, Chairman of the China Aviation Supplies Holding Company (CAS). This occurred in the presence of visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Airbus reaffirmed its commitment to China’s aviation industry in September, signing a new agreement with China Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC) to enhance single-aisle fuselage equipping at the A320 Family final assembly line in Tianjin.
China’s in-service fleet of Airbus jetliners include this A350 XWB, which was delivered to Air China in August 2018.
Major A320neo Family bookings
The continued popularity of Airbus’ single-aisle A320neo Family was underscored in 2019 with bookings that ranged from several aircraft to several hundred, bringing total firm NEO orders well above the 7,000 mark as of November.
Among the year’s largest agreements involved IndiGo – India’s largest passenger airline – which placed a firm order for 300 A320neo-series aircraft, marking one of the largest bookings Airbus has ever received from a single airline operator. IndiGo’s acquisition involves a mix of A320neo, A321neo and extra-long-range A321XLR versions. This brought the total number of A320neo Family aircraft ordered by IndiGo to 730.
In the U.S., Airbus and Spirit Airlines agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding for the fast growing ultra-low-cost carrier to acquire up to 100 A320neo Family aircraft, covering the intention for a mix of A319neo, A320neo, and A321neo versions. This will help Spirit Airlines meet future fleet requirements, as well as support growth as the carrier expands its network across the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean.
Also in 2019, Air Arabia (the Middle East and North Africa’s first and largest low cost carrier) signed a firm order for 120 A320neo Family aircraft, comprising 73 A320neo, 27 A321neo and 20 A321XLR versions.
A321XLR: Efficiency and extra-long range
After its official launch at the 2019 Paris Air Show, Airbus’ extra-long-range single-aisle A321XLR steadily built up a strong base of orders and commitments from customers around the world.
In December, United Airlines placed a firm order for 50 Airbus A321XLR aircraft as it begins to phase out older models and launches an expansion of transatlantic routes.
With this booking, the U.S. carrier joined a customer base that also includes Air Arabia, Air Lease Corporation, AirAsia X, American Airlines, Cebu Pacific, flynas, GE Capital Aviation Services, IndiGo, Indigo Partners, International Airlines Group, JetBlue Airways, Middle East Airlines, Qantas, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Vietjet.
The A321XLR is the newest member of the A320neo Family and the next evolutionary step for Airbus’ single-aisle product line, responding to market needs for even more range and payload, generating more value for operators – while offering an enhanced passenger experience with Airbus’ Airspace cabin.
Airbus’ A321XLR is the world’s most efficient and longest-range single-aisle aircraft.
Key endorsements for the A350 XWB and A330neo
At the Dubai Airshow, Emirates Airline signed a purchase agreement for 50 A350-900 versions of the A350 XWB after a thorough review of various aircraft options and of its fleet plans.
Also during the year, Lufthansa Group – the biggest Airbus operator – signed for 20 additional A350-900s, bringing its total orders for the A350 XWB to 45. In announcing its decision, Lufthansa Group cited the A350 XWB’s reliability and the excellent feedback from passengers.
STARLUX Airlines of Taiwan placed a firm order for 12 A350-1000s and five A350-900s – benefitting from the capabilities offered by both A350 XWB aircraft types on the carrier’s premier long-haul services from Taipei to Europe and North America, as well as selected destinations within the Asia-Pacific region.
New business for the A330neo in 2019 included AirAsia X’s finalisation of its firm order for an additional 12 A330-900 versions; along with Virgin Atlantic’s selection of 14 A330-900s to replace its A330ceos from 2021, with options to further expand the fleet of highly-efficient widebody aircraft.
Cebu Pacific (CEB), the Philippines-based low-cost carrier, signed a Memorandum of Understanding for 31 Airbus aircraft, including 16 A330neo jetliners in a higher-capacity version of the A330-900 (with 460 seats in single-class configuration), while Uganda Airlines firmed up its order for two A330-800s.
Emirates Airline is acquiring 50 A350-900 versions of the A350 XWB.
ANA joins the world’s A380 operators
In March, Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) became the 15th operator of the largest passenger aircraft: the A380. It has ordered three of the double-deck airliners from Airbus for operation on the popular route between Tokyo’s Narita International Airport and Honolulu in the U.S. Hawaiian Islands.
Each ANA A380 will feature a special livery depicting the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, also known as the Honu. The first-delivered aircraft is painted in blue, while the second will be green and the third orange.
“Airbus is proud to deliver this beautiful aircraft to ANA,” said Airbus CEO Tom Enders during the delivery ceremony at Airbus’ industrial site in the Toulouse, France region. “Offering unrivalled levels of passenger comfort, the A380 will enable ANA to increase its capacity on the busy route to Hawaii with maximum efficiency. We are confident that the aircraft will be highly successful in service with ANA and are committed to providing full support to the airline all along the way.”
After the 20 March handover to ANA, there were 232 A380s in service with 15 operators worldwide, flying on 120 routes across the globe.
The distinctive livery for ANA’s first A380 depicts the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, underscoring this jetliner’s use on the route linking Tokyo’s Narita International Airport with Honolulu in the U.S. Hawaiian Islands.
Going the distance with ETOPS approvals
In January, Airbus announced that its A330-900, the longer-fuselage variant of the A330neo widebody jetliner, received the approval for ETOPS (Extended-range Twin engine aircraft Operations) “beyond 180 minutes” diversion time. This authorisation, granted by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), means that operators of the A330neo – which is powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines – will benefit from the most efficient, reliable and direct long-range routings. The approval also includes the option for “ETOPS 285 minutes,” which extends the potential air diversion distance to around 2,000 nm.
Also in January, the single-aisle A220’s approval for 180-minute extended operations (ETOPS) was confirmed from Transport Canada (the Canadian civil aviation authority), becoming the first commercial airliner to obtain domestic ETOPS certification from Canada’s airworthiness agency. With this capability, operators of A220-100 and A220-300 jetliners have the ability to fly for up to 180 minutes from the nearest diversion airport.
ETOPS initially was introduced by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and comprises a set of rules that allow commercial operations with twin-engine aircraft on routes beyond 60 minutes flying time from the nearest airport – approval which previously was granted only for aircraft with more than two engines.
The A220’s extended operations approval from Canada’s civil aviation authority allows airline customers to start new direct non-limiting routings over water, remote or underserved regions.
Airbus Corporate Jets milestones
In 2019, Airbus Corporate Jets marked major milestones that ranged from the first government order for widebody ACJ350 XWBs to the single-aisle A319neo’s maiden flight and a key delivery for the ACJ320neo version.
Airbus Corporate Jets’ first ACJ320neo was delivered to Acropolis Aviation of the UK in January. The ACJ320neo Family aircraft has the widest and tallest cabins of any business jet, without costing more to operate or taking up additional ramp space.
The shortest-fuselage member of the Airbus Corporate Jets’ product line, the ACJ319neo, successfully completed its first flight on 24 April, beginning a fast-paced flight test programme to verify its corporate jet features – such as extra fuel tanks in the cargo-hold that enable intercontinental range. On 26 April, the ACJ319neo set a new record for the longest A320 Family flight by an Airbus crew – completing a 16-hour and 10-minute test flight: travelling from Toulouse, France to northern Greenland and back, the jetliner’s trajectory included a simulated diversion in the framework of 180-minute Extended Range Twin-Engine Operations (ETOPS).
In May, the German government placed a firm order for three ACJ350 XWBs – becoming the initial government customer for the A350 XWB’s corporate version. The ACJ350 XWB is Airbus’ latest addition to its ACJ family of widebody VIP aircraft – with Germany acquiring the ACJ350-900 version. This aircraft can fly 25 passengers a distance of 11,100 nm (20,550 km). In its ultra-long-range version, the flight duration is more than 22 hours.
The first ACJ320neo, which can fly 25 passengers 6,000 nm (11,100 km) or more than 13 hours, was delivered to Acropolis Aviation of the UK in January 2019.
New A220 Family U.S. production facility
As of August 2019, more than 510 orders were placed for A220 aircraft, including 90 booked by Delta Air Lines. Expanding an earlier order, this U.S.-based carrier increased its number of the larger A220-300 version booked to 50 jetliners. Other U.S. customers – JetBlue, Moxy and Republic Airways Holdings – also have placed orders for the A220.
With the A220’s sales success, Airbus opened a new assembly line for the aircraft at its U.S. manufacturing facility in Mobile, Alabama – which will build jetliners for U.S. customers. Construction of the new facility – located at the Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, adjacent to Airbus’ existing A320 Family production line – began in January 2019, with production activity commencing eight months later in August.
In new business activity during 2019 on the international scene, Air Vanuatu – the national flag carrier of the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu – signed a firm order with Airbus for four A220s (two A220-100s and two A220-300s). Air Vanuatu’s first ever order with Airbus makes it the A220 launch customer in the Pacific region.
Delta Air Lines became the first U.S. operator to receive an A220 jetliner – and expanded its order to 90 aircraft of this single-aisle family.
The BelugaXL airlifter: Ready for service
To support the A350 XWB jetliner’s ramp-up and other aircraft production rate increases, Airbus is replacing its fleet of five A300-600ST airlifters (BelugaST) with six BelugaXL aircraft, derived from the company’s versatile A330 widebody product line.
In November, the BelugaXL received its Type Certificate from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) airworthiness authority, paving the way for the BelugaXL’s entry-into-service by early 2020 – progressively replacing the BelugaST fleet.
In addition to the significant use of existing components and equipment, Airbus’ A330-based BelugaXLs will incorporate newly developed elements including its lowered cockpit, a highly-enlarged cargo bay structure, and modified rear and tail section.
Sized at seven metres longer and one metre wider than its BelugaST predecessor, the BelugaXL provides 30 percent extra transport capacity. As an example, the BelugaXL can carry two wings of an A350 XWB jetliner, while the BelugaST can only accommodate one. With a maximum payload of 51 tonnes, the BelugaXL has a range of 4,000 km (2,200 nm).
As with the BelugaST, the BelugaXLs will operate from 11 destinations in Europe, continuing to strengthen Airbus’ industrial capabilities and enabling the company to meet its production and delivery commitments.
With a highly-enlarged cargo bay structure, as well as modified rear and tail section, the fleet of six BelugaXL airlifters will operate across Europe to support Airbus’ aircraft production network.