PARIS: A320neo order analysis

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Notwithstanding the need to firm up a large proportion of its order count, Airbus's success at the Paris air show has demonstrated positive market reception to the manufacturer's A320neo.

It secured 667 firm and commitments for the type at the show, which brought the total to 1,029 since the re-engining programme for the A320 was launched.

However, the airframer is not expecting the orders to necessarily translate into a faster production transition from the baseline A320 to the A320neo.

Airbus had previously outlined a potential 30-month move, given sufficient demand, from current A320 production to full ramp-up of the new variant.

Chief operating officer for customers John Leahy said the transition could be achieved in the first quarter of 2018.

paris a320neo orders
 © Airbus
Clockwise from top left Republic Airways holdings, Cebu Pacific, Air Asia, GoAir, Avianca, Garuda Indonesia 

However, the airframer is cautious of overreaching and losing flexibility. "We don't want to get into a situation where slots become constrained," said Airbus executive vice-president of programmes Tom Williams. "We don't want to become victims of our own success."

Airbus has slots for the baseline A320 from 2014 but Leahy said slots are becoming "tight" for the A320neo, which are only available from around 2018-19. The A320neo is due to enter service in the fourth quarter of 2015.

While the headline numbers for Airbus were impressive, there were few surprises among the customers, with the main orders going to current loyal A320-family operators or large lessors ensuring that they had early stocks of the improved aircraft.

AirAsia insisted it would not convert any of its current A320 backlog as it added 200 A320neos to Airbus's books, taking the Malaysian low-cost carrier's overall A320 orders to 375.

There was arguably no knock-out blow against Boeing, which quietly clocked up dozens of 737 orders, but a tentative decision by Frontier Airlines parent Republic Airways to acquire up to 80 A320neo-family jets - including the first selection of the A319neo - left a question over the future of its Bombardier CSeries order, even while Frontier and Bombardier claimed it still remained robust.

Although Scandinavian Airlines, a large Boeing 737 operator, opted to take 30 A320neos, the decision was in line with a fleet simplification under which it will base Airbus jets at Copenhagen while retaining and replenishing 737s in Oslo and Stockholm.

Airbus was able to claim victory at Garuda Indonesia, however, which selected the A320neo for its low-cost operation Citilink despite Garuda being a strong 737 operator.