Airframers are finally beginning to respond to the crisis in the airline industry brought on by the onslaught of high fuel prices combined with the global financial meltdown. But are they reacting fast enough?

"They're starting to listen," says ILFC boss Steve Udvar-Hazy, who has warned Airbus and Boeing that if they don't each pull back their single-aisle output by five aircraft a month next year then there will be a glut of narrowbodies to exacerbate the situation.

The only tangible response so far - bar the well-timed production hiatus at Boeing caused by the strike - is Airbus's decision to arrest the ramp-up in A320 output. But for the time being, the airframer plans to continue pushing an "eye-watering" 36 narrowbodies a month out of its plants in Toulouse, Hamburg and Tianjin.

While even a 30% cull of the backlogs would leave many years of single-aisle production on order, the reality is that many airlines are unlikely to want all these aircraft as soon as they once did - whether it be because of financing hurdles or the decline in traffic growth.

And another justification of high new aircraft output - the high fuel price that made these machines more attractive than retaining older, less efficient (but paid-for) classics - has diminished with the substantial fall in fuel price. This might be short-term thinking, but for some carriers their immediate responses to fluctuating trading conditions will determine whether they have a long-term future.

So the super tanker that is airliner production needs to start its U-turn, and quickly.

Source: Flight International