Airbus has yet to detail its strategy to increase the A320neo’s seating beyond 180, after the airframer indicated that it would look at configurations up to 189 seats.
Chief executive Fabrice Bregier said that the airframer would work to improve the twinjet’s seat-count, as part of a focus on incremental enhancement of its aircraft lines.
“Nobody really sees a brand new [aircraft] development in the coming years. We need to invest in our series programmes,” he said during an EADS forum on 12 December. “Sometimes these investments are not too visible.”
Bregier said Airbus would “probably” move from 180 seats in the A320neo to “a maximum” of 189. “For low-cost customers it means a lot in [net present value].”
But the airframer has not specified a strategy for reconfiguring the type.
“Airbus is always looking at innovative ways to deliver more value to its customers by continuously improving its products,” it says.
“Unsurprisingly we are exploring ways to leverage the full benefit of these enablers by increasing the A320 seat count and maximising efficiency.”
While it could take advantage of slimmer seats, and space-saving developments such as its Space-Flex rear galley, the A320neo currently runs up against certification restrictions.
European Aviation Safety Agency certification requirements state that two pairs of Type I and two pairs of Type III exits are sufficient to accommodate 179 passengers.
Although this is the exit configuration for the A320, Airbus applied in September 1992 to increase the permitted seating to 180.
Its case to the European regulator – then the Joint Aviation Authorities – centred on the forward and aft Type I exits being larger than the minimum required.
Airbus argued that the results of mathematical testing suggested that a higher exit rating of 55 passengers, rather than the Type I limit of 45, was more suitable.
It added that a full-scale evacuation demonstration of the A320 with 179 passengers showed “sufficient margin” to justify one extra seat.
Boeing’s 737-800 has the same combination of exits as the A320 but is cleared for 189 passengers because its dual overwing Type III exits feature a quick-release mechanism which automatically swings the door upward on a hinge.
Opening the overwing exits on the A320 requires the door to be manually pulled into the cabin and then thrown through the hatch.
Airbus has not indicated whether it is considering any similar modification to Type III exits as part of a higher-density A320 project.
It is already working on increasing the seating of its larger A321neo from 220 to 236 by installing the Space-Flex cabin and installing an additional overwing exit.