Airbus is eager to further increase production of A320 family aircraft, but first needs engine makers to commit to increased engine delivery volumes.
"We are preparing for a decision to go to higher rates," says Airbus head of commercial aircraft Guillaume Faury.
"The engine makers have so far refused to commit to higher volumes. We know this is a discussion that's going to take place this year," he told reporters on 16 January.
In 2018, Airbus delivered 626 A320-family aircraft, or roughly 52 aircraft monthly, it has said. But production was hindered last year by supply chain problems, notably those related to engine makers CFM International and Pratt & Whitney.
Airbus expects to reach a steady rate of 60 A320s monthly by the middle of this year, and suggests a further ramp-up is around the corner.
"We said a year ago that we would study 70 [aircraft monthly], but 70 would not be the next step," Faury says. "There would be an intermediate step."
The talk of higher production comes amid a slowdown in orders for new A320s. In 2018, Airbus landed sales of 541 A320-family aircraft, down from 1,054 in 2017 and equating to a book-to-bill ratio of less than one.
But Faury downplays the relevance of the book-to-bill ratio, which can indicate future business health. He notes that Airbus has a massive A320-family backlog (it stood at 6,056 aircraft at the end of 2018) and says meeting today's demand is Airbus's top priority.
"We don’t see the book-to-bill [ratio] of one on the single aisle as something that is important," he says. "There is more and more demand and we are frustrated that we now have to give slots far into the future."
Faury also dismisses suggestions of a downturn in narrowbody demand, citing an expanding middle class in places like China and India.
"We are not really looking at a downturn. What we see is a reduction in the speed of growth. We are monitoring this," he says. "It would require a big downturn to see… this single-aisle market really going down."
Boeing is also increasing 737 production, aiming to reach 57 aircraft monthly, up from 52, in 2019.