A320neo conversions necessary to handle backlog: Enders

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Airbus expects to entertain further conversions of its A320 family to the re-engined A320neo in order to cope with overbooking in the backlog.

Although the airframer had originally insisted that it would not permit switching of existing A320 orders to the A320neo, it has recently relaxed this policy for a limited number of customers.

Airbus Group chief Tom Enders explains that the manufacturer has effectively been forced to allow the conversions in order to keep the transition to all-A320neo production on track.

He says that, given the overbooking of the A320 slots and the shortening interval before A320neo transition, Airbus “can no longer manage” the backlog by “pushing out” aircraft “some years down the road”.

Enders says that Airbus does not want to move A320 orders to 2018 and beyond because the airframer is aiming to achieve full A320neo production cutover by this point.

He says that, as a result, conversion of A320s is “inevitable”, adding: “We knew it was coming.”

But he points out that the conversions to the A320neo result in higher margins for the slots, and that he expects further similar switches to emerge in the second half of 2014 and over the course of next year.

Airbus says the A320neo remains on track for first flight in September and entry into service in the fourth quarter of 2015.