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Airbus cools on A330 production rate rise

Airbus indicates it is not committing to increase the rate of A330 production this year, although it maintains that such a shift would not be difficult.

The airframer had stated last year that it planned to increase the monthly A330 rate to seven in 2017, after it had previously cut output to six as demand for the twinjet slowed.

But speaking at a first-quarter briefing, Airbus chief financial officer Harald Wilhelm signalled that the manufacturer would "stay" at the rate of six aircraft, which leaves the airframer "very well-covered for years to come".

He says the airframer has the "potential for seven" but it would only raise the rate once a "firm, audited backlog is fully supporting [this change]".

Wilhelm says the company – which is developing a re-engined version of the A330, due to enter service next year – has a strong backlog of A330s to 2019.

"It doesn't mean the very last slot is sold out for 2019," he says, but filling the outstanding slots is "perfectly feasible".

Airbus's A330 backlog at the end of the first quarter stood at 346 aircraft, of which 136 were the current -200 and -300 variants – among them four -200 freighters – and 210 were re-engined -800s and -900s.

Wilhelm says the re-engined A330neo family is being priced to preserve capital cost advantages, and that Airbus is aiming to protect margins, although it has "some flexibility in that respect, if needs be".

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