The airline industry demonstrated its resiliency in 2011.
With signs of renewed strength following a period of economic crisis, airlines and leasing companies turned to Airbus for new aircraft that will help them respond to future growth and market trends, improve their operating efficiency and meet growing demand for eco-efficiency in the air transport sector.
Much of the sales activity during the year was focussed on the A320neo (new engine option) for Airbus’ popular A320 single-aisle jetliner family, which was launched in December 2010 and accumulated 1,256 firm orders from 23 customers through December 2011 – making it the fastest selling commercial jetliner ever.
Airbus’ total gross orders for 2011 totaled 1,419, while net orders for the 12 months (taking cancellations into account) reached 1,608 – both representing new records.
In addition to bookings for the A320neo and the current A320 Family, business logged during 2011 also included orders for the A330, A350 XWB and A380.
With a record 534 deliveries completed in 2011, the Airbus backlog as of December 31 stood at 4,437 aircraft, consisting of 3,345 A320 Family jetliners, 906 A330/A340/A350 aircraft and 186 A380s.
10,000th order milestone
2011 began with a milestone order: Virgin America’s acquisition of 60 A320s, which included 30 of the A320neo version to seal the first firm booking for the single-aisle aircraft’s new engine option, and lifting total Airbus orders above the 10,000 mark.
This milestone for the A320 Family underscores how Airbus sales have grown steadily since its first aircraft went into service in 1974.
Having sold 1,000 jetliners by 1989, the order book doubled in less than half the time, reaching 2,000 in 1996.
The 3,000 mark was attained in 1998, again cutting the time it took to sell another 1,000 planes by more than half. By the year 2000, a total of 4,000 aircraft had been sold.
“We hit our 5,000th order in August of 2004 – after more than 30 years,” said Tom Enders, Airbus President and CEO. “To achieve the 10,000th order just over six years later is a ringing endorsement of our product line.”
Another record annual performance
The historic Virgin America order was revealed at Airbus’ annual New Year’s kickoff press conference in January 2011, where the company also announced another industry-leading performance in 2010 – during which it booked 644 commercial aircraft orders.
This volume was well above expectations, and it represented 51% of the worldwide market share.
Commercial aircraft deliveries in 2010 totalled 510 jetliners provided to 94 customers – of which 19 were new clients for Airbus.
Also in January 2011, Airbus inked a Memorandum of Understanding with IndiGo for 180 A320s, making it one of the largest jet orders in aviation history and positioning India's largest low-cost carrier as a launch customer for the A320neo new engine option version.
This landmark booking was composed of 150 A320neos and 30 A320s.
The A320neo takes centre stage
Sales successes for the A320neo were logged throughout the year, with a series of key announcements coming during the 2011 Paris Air Show in June – including AirAsia’s history-making booking for 200 A320neo aircraft, which represented the biggest order placed to date for Airbus’ best-selling A320 family of jetliners.
This agreement also made AirAsia the largest customer for Airbus in terms of aircraft. Revealed as well during the biennial aerospace event was IndiGo’s firming up of its order for 150 A320neo and 30 A320s.
A total of 667 commitments for the A320neo were announced during the week-long event at Le Bourget Airport, representing a value of $60.9 billion. This unprecedented volume more than validated Airbus’ decision to launch the enhanced fuel-efficient version of its single-aisle jetliner family, and even exceeded expectations from the company’s senior management team.
American Airlines selects the A320 Family
The A320 Family’s commercial success continued in July with the announcement of American Airlines’ firm order for 260 aircraft, which made this U.S.-based global operator a new customer for Airbus’ single-aisle product line.
As an important component of the carrier’s fleet modernization strategy, half of the jetliners ordered by American Airways are to be Airbus’ New Engine Option (neo), while all 260 will be equipped with fuel-saving Sharklets wingtip devices.
Upon start-up of deliveries for these aircraft – which includes A319s, A320s and A321s – American Airways will benefit from improved efficiency and additional operational savings, while offering state-of-the-art technology to its customers.
Expanding the A320neo customer base
The biennial Dubai Airshow in November was the location of other strategic A320 Family commercial announcements, including Qatar Airways’ firm order for 50 A320neo aircraft that marked a step in this Doha-based airline’s decision to form the backbone of its future single-aisle fleet with Airbus’ A320 product line.
Another Middle East customer, Kuwait’s ALAFCO, signed a firm order for 50 A320neo Family aircraft and took options for 30 more, with these aircraft to complement the aviation lease and finance company’s existing A320 portfolio.
Completing the A320neo’s firm transaction activity at the Dubai Airshow was the U.S.-based Aviation Capital Group’s purchase agreement for 30 jetliners, which will be made available for the aircraft leasing company’s global customer base.
Spirit Airlines of the U.S. signed a memorandum of understanding for 45 A320neo jetliners and 30 A320s, marking an additional market commitment in North America from an existing A320 operator.
The new A320s to be acquired by Spirit will be equipped with Airbus’ Sharklet™ wingtip devices that cut down on aerodynamic drag for lower fuel consumption and reduced carbon emissions, which are optional on A320s and incorporated as standard fit on the A320neo.
A debut for A320 Sharklets
The first set of Sharklet wing-tip devices rolled out on Airbus’ A320 development aircraft in Toulouse, France during November. Later in the month, the Sharklets took to the sky for their milestone first flight from Airbus’ headquarters in Toulouse, France – which also marked the start of a multi-month test campaign to validate the devices’ performance, confirm their aerodynamic behavior and gather data for certification.
These Sharklets, which have been specially designed for the Airbus A320 Family, will reduce fuel burn by up to 3.5 percent, corresponding to an annual CO2 reduction of around 700 tonnes per aircraft. Such a reduction is equivalent to the CO2 produced by around 200 cars annually.
The new wingtip devices are approximately 2.5 metres tall and will replace the aircraft’s current wingtip fences, which have a modified triangular shape. Sharklets, which are standard on the A320neo Family and offered as an option on new-build baseline A320 aircraft, also will enhance the aircraft’s payload-range and take-off performance.
New – and repeat – A380 customers
Other high notes of 2011 were new A380 bookings – beginning with the addition of two airlines to the 21st century flagship’s customer list early in the year that further reinforced its presence in the Asia-Pacific marketplace.
The first was a six-aircraft A380 firm order by Asiana Airlines of South Korea in January. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2014, and Asiana Airlines plans to operate the jetliners with a premium layout on key routes to Europe and the U.S.
It was followed by the confirmation in February of Skymark Airlines’ contract for four A380s – later increased by two more, representing a further expansion of Airbus’ Japanese customer base. At the Dubai Airshow in November, Qatar Airways announced a repeat order for the A380, adding an additional five to the two initial aircraft ordered in 2003, followed by three more in 2007. This brought the total number of A380 firm orders to 243 from 18 customers worldwide as of November 2011.
Also joining the A380 “family” during the year was another new carrier, Hong Kong Airlines, whose booking for 10 of the airliners was logged in December. This brought the overall number of A380s sold to 253 from 19 customers.
First A380 deliveries to Korean Air and China Southern
In May, Airbus marked the delivery celebration of Korean Air’s first A380, which was highlighted during a ceremony at Airbus’ Toulouse, France headquarters.
The Seoul-based carrier has a long-standing relationship with Airbus that dates back to 1974, and will expand its global network with the 10 A380s on order.
Korean Air initially will operate these double-deck jetliners from Seoul to destinations in Asia, followed by non-stop long-haul services to North America and Europe – making it the sixth airline to utilize the A380.
During October, China Southern Airlines became the first Chinese carrier to operate the A380 after taking delivery of its no. 1 aircraft in Toulouse.
This airline began service between the major Chinese cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou – to be followed by operations on international routes.
China Southern is the seventh operator worldwide to receive the A380.
Milestone 7000th delivery: US Airways' A321
Airbus achieved several delivery milestones during 2011, underscoring the company’s sustained production rates to meet the growing worldwide customer demand for its single-aisle and wide-body jetliners.
This commercial activity included handover of the milestone 7,000th Airbus aircraft – an A321 for US Airways, delivered in December from the company’s facility in Hamburg, Germany. Occurring nearly two years after the 6,000-jetliner benchmark, it further underscores Airbus’ successful production increase to meet demand from a widening global customer base.
On 1 June, Airbus marked the handover of the 50th jetliner manufactured at its A320 Family final assembly line in Tianjin, China – which occurred less than two years after delivery of the no. 1 aircraft assembled at this facility. This aircraft was received by Shanghai-based Juneyao Airlines, with its delivery highlighted by a special event attended by National Development and Reform Commission of China and Tianjin government officials, Juneyao executives and Airbus representatives.
The 50th A380 delivered by Airbus was provided on 16 June to Singapore Airlines – which also was the first carrier to inaugurate revenue service with the 21st century flagship jetliner in 2007. The delivery expanded Singapore Airlines’ A380 fleet to 12 aircraft. Other A380 operators as of this date were Air France, Emirates, Korean Air, Lufthansa and Qantas Airways.
For its A330 Family, Airbus celebrated another achievement on 13 July when it delivered its 800th aircraft – an A330-200F freighter – to Aircastle Advisor Ltd for operation by the HNA Group. The delivery was celebrated at Airbus’ Toulouse, France headquarters and is the third A330-200F for the HNA Group fleet.
To date, over 1,180 of the twin-engine A330s have been ordered – underscoring the cost-efficient advantages in its jetliner category.
Airbus advances its agenda for a cleaner environment
Airbus continued its proactive approach in 2011 for a more sustainable air transport industry, taking the opportunity to partner with airlines, governments and others on a full range of promising projects.
During the first half of the year, Airbus signed an agreement with the Spanish government and Iberia Airlines that brings together farmers, oil-refiners and airlines to develop a complete Spanish “value chain” of sustainable and renewable aviation sustainable aviation fuel for commercial use. The company also teamed with Interjet to conduct the first Jatropha-based sustainable aviation fuel flight in Mexico in an effort to accelerate the country’s commercialisation of sustainable aviation fuels for aviation use.
In its support of research activities for a greener and emission free industry, Airbus sponsored an electric concept aircraft demonstrator called “eGenius” that performed its maiden flight in May, featuring an electric propulsion system that pushes the limits of electric flight to a level of 60kw.
On 15 July, German airline Lufthansa launched the world’s first-ever daily scheduled commercial passenger flights using sustainable aviation fuel, performing four daily round-trip flights between the cities of Hamburg and Frankfurt. These flights – planned initially for a six-month period – operate on a sustainable aviation fuel blend using 50% Hydro-processed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFTA), with Airbus providing technical assistance and monitoring fuel properties.