On several occasions I said Boeing’s 737NG backlog is “insanely huge” or “stupidly huge“. Well, it seems that I won’t be able to find the right word to qualify the A320 backlog size.
The A320 Classic has about 2,300 units in the backlog. If you add the recent 700 A320neo orders, the total is about 3,000 units. The interesting thing is that Airbus still needs to secure some more orders from different geographic regions and from various business models. If my feeling is right, then there would be around 900 total neo orders at the end of the year. At that point, the shareholders will have a gun pointed to their head, “Give more Capex or the orders will evaporate.”
I do not want to use unfriendly words like “stupidly” or “insanely” to qualify Airbus A320 backlog size, so let’s say that the A320 backlog is amazingly huge.
With more than 3,000 units to deliver, I do not know how far the A320 is sold out. May be there is no more delivery opportunities before 2019. As a comparison, with “only” 2,100 on backlog, Mr Jim Albaugh said that the 737NG is sold out until 2016.
While Airbus is building its A320 backlog, Boeing’s intention is clearly to burn-down the backlog. Those facts underline the difference of psychology between Airbus’ and Boeing’s managers. One looks for security and stability whereas the latter wants productivity and agility.
We are witnessing the entry of a third major player into the narrowbody market. I have been in close contact with Canadian modesty and humility since about one year now. I have the feeling that the third major player keeps its Canadian Modesty. This is another and interesting psychological profile than the two I mentioned above. For example there has been no reaction when their latest product, which will become a true game changer in the narrowbody market, was qualified as “Dead and Buried” by Airbus.
I think Bombardier has amassed more than 130 CSeries orders by now. That’s more than the first two year of production. It must be quite difficult to get CSeries deliveries earlier than 2016.
Too Early Too Slowly
I still believe that the A320neo launch is way too premature. I do not understand why a simple re-engining takes more than five years to develop when the engines are ready. The bizarre timing of the announcement is only one point. The other interesting point is about the fact that the A320neo does not grow in size. In my humble opinion, the narrowbody aircraft average size must grow by about 5 to 10 seats. Why do I think so? Because I noticed that the average sold seats per aircraft in the US grew a little bit. If you want, you can make your observations by yourself (click here). I also read elsewhere that regional jets are getting bigger.
Therefore, I suspect the definition of the A320neo, especially the A321neo, is in reality still not frozen. In my opinion, when the shareholders will be afraid to make a U-turn then Airbus will propose some changes. This is a déjà vu. remember the case of the re-engined A330, the A350 mk1 and the A350XWB?
Replacement Is Not An Option
The A320neo is presented as an “option”. In reality it is a replacement for the A320 Classic. You just can’t offer four engine types for exactly the same airframe, especially when two of them burn 15% more fuel than the two other “options”. It just does not work. I also hope that airlines will be clever enough to ask for an engine interchangeability. After all, they will be buying exactly the same airframe. The engine interchangeability will offer the flexibility to wait for the availability of the more efficient engine but not to wait the aircraft delivery when the capacity requires it.
So yes, I think airlines are right to ask for an engine interchangeability on the A320 especially the interchangeability from the inefficient old engine toward the new and better one.
Competitors Are Not Worried
In my very humble opinion, the A320neo orders don’t disturb much the competitors. The deliveries of those aircraft are as far as 2019. More orders will only mean even further deliveries. So, who really cares?
In my view, those far-far-away deliveries give extra time for the competitors to think and to define the right response. No one is really in hurry anymore because Airbus will have frozen it narrowbody strategy for the next ten years. However, I expect that the A320neo will change, just like the A350-1000XWB changes five years after its launch.