As Airbus moves towards a near certain launch of its proposed re-engined A320 family, it is canvassing potential launch customers for the project.
Qatar Airways, which is a major customer for the Airbus twinjet with a fleet of 25 A319s, A320s and A321s, with 20 more on order, is evaluating the proposed upgrade as well as the Bombardier CSeries. The airline's chief executive Akbar Al Baker told Flight International that it may opt for either or both aircraft, and expects to decide on any move this year.
Al Baker says that while the obvious advantage of the re-engining is the fuel burn saving, the upgrade would also bring other benefits. "The A321 with the GTF would have an impressive range boost, giving it the same performance as the A320," he says.
British Airways is also keeping a careful eye on the Airbus/Boeing projects for possible inclusion in its longer- term fleet plans. The UK flag carrier would be interested in upgraded versions of the current models if they can deliver the double-digit fuel burn savings so long as "complexity costs [such as holding spares and spare engines for a new engine] are not so large as to wipe out the fuel burn benefits". The airline adds that such aircraft "would be contenders for 737-400 or short-haul 767-300ER replacements if they were available by 2015".
Scandinavian flag carrier SAS also has the proposed A320 and 737 in its sights, along with the CSeries.
As it prepares the ground for the replacement of its remaining Boeing MD-80s and older 737s from around 2014-15, it describes the CSeries and the two proposed upgraded variants as "three interesting options to choose from".