Analysis of Airbus’s single-aisle backlog reveals that the shift towards larger types in new orders has been underpinned by substantial conversion activity within existing agreements.

The trend has been evident in gross orders since 2010, when the relatively even balance between the A319 and A321 began to tilt heavily in favour of the larger aircraft. In 2013 the A321 outsold the A319 by a factor of 20.

But less apparent has been the underlying conversion trend over the same period.

There were 98 upward conversions of A319s in 2010, about a quarter of them to A321s. In the same year only 35 A320s were converted to the larger type.

But over the following three years – from 2011 to 2013 – customers converted 323 A320s to A321s, and moved another 90 A319s upwards.

Airbus A320-family conversions

Such is the strength of the shift that the airframer had 20 fewer A319s on its order books at the end of June 2014 than it had five years earlier.

The figures reveal a sharp decline in demand for an aircraft which had previously accumulated over 1,500 orders since securing its first in 1994.

Airbus is developing the A319neo, a re-engined version of the type, but sales have been poor in comparison with the strength of the broader A320neo programme, taking less than 2% of the orders – in contrast to the A319 which had accounted for some 20% of baseline A320-family orders before the re-engining effort began.

Executive vice-president for programmes Tom Williams reiterated in June that “up to 50% of future production” would comprise A321 and A321neo variants.

Bombardier’s CSeries is being developed to compete as an all-new aircraft in the 110- to 130-seat sector occupied by the A319 and A319neo.

The airframer has secured orders for 63 CS100s and 140 of the larger CS300.

Boeing believes that the single-aisle sector is gravitating towards an average seat-count of 160, outlining the trend in its latest commercial market outlook.

Seat-counts on routes up to 1,000nm and on routes of 1,000-2,000nm have increased over the past 15 years, it says.

It suggests they are converging on a 160-seat figure which, in the same timeframe, has stayed largely constant on longer sectors of 2,000-3,000nm.

Profitability of short-haul operations has suffered as fuel prices have increased, says the airframer, and carriers have sought to counter by using higher-capacity aircraft to lower unit costs.

Source: Cirium Dashboard