Airbus may have launched the A350 Freighter programme without “subjecting it to having a launch customer” but orders will soon arrive based on “some very encouraging conversations” it is having with potential operators, according to Airbus chief commercial officer Christian Scherer.
He told told attendees at a dinner during the Airbus Summit taking place in Toulouse on 21 September: ”We didn’t want to box ourselves into having 1, 2 or 3 launch customers.”
The A350 Freighter was formally launched in July and has an entry-into-service target of 2025. Airbus developed the derivative of the A350 airliner “at the insistence of quite a few” customers, says Scherer. “I feel really, really good about this airplane,” he adds.
Asked about customer demand for airliners in general as the industry begins to revive, Scherer said it is coming back, including the slow-to-recover European market.
Unsurprisingly, however, there is a contrast between demand for its narrowbody and widebody ranges, with “significant demand” from shorter-haul operators at present, whereas widebody demand is supressed, he says. Overall, Airbus is “in a good spot” in terms of its demand outlook, he adds.
It is this demand that is giving Airbus the confidence to increase production rates of the A320. Chief Operating Officer Alberto Gutierrez told Summit delegates that it is putting everything in place, in particular discussions with suppliers and partners such as the engine manufacturers, about starting the ramp up of the final assembly line.
“We are asking them to speed up,” he says. Airbus is currently at an output of 43 aircraft per month but has said it intends to take this to 64 by mid-2023.