Airbus upbeat on jet market, still studying A380 upgrade

Fri Apr 17, 2015 9:14am EDT
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PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus (AIR.PA: Quote) sees continued strength in the aircraft market and may be able to increase production of its most popular jets beyond their planned rates if that trend continues, the head of the European planemaker said on Friday.

Fabrice Bregier, chief executive of the plane making unit of Airbus Group, said he believed Airbus would eventually recapture the top plane making slot from Boeing as its new A350 jet comes into its own, but market share came second to profitable growth.

Airbus is well placed to deliver 15 of the wide-body A350 planes this year and continues to expect more orders than deliveries in 2015, he said in Paris at a briefing to French aerospace media association AJPAE.

Airbus plans to raise output of its best-selling A320 model to 50 planes a month from 42 month between now and 2017 and has talked of pushing output even further to 60 or beyond. Rival Boeing is on a similar course with its competing 737 jet.

"The market is very strong and we have said we can produce 50 (A320s) a month by 2017 and if the market remains supported there is the possibility to go higher," Bregier said.

Asked if he could give a theoretical estimate of how long it would take to reach such levels, he said it would depend on the supply chain but agreed with a suggestion that it could be around 2020, adding "we are far from doing the studies on that."

Airbus and Boeing are increasingly reliant on such models to drive profits and provide the cash needed to complete new jets or carry out upgrades to other types of aircraft.

Bregier reiterated Airbus would not abandon the much larger A380 after an order slump for that model, but said it would take a careful look at the business case before deciding whether to revamp it with new engines as requested by Dubai's Emirates.

"We are working on the evolution of the aircraft and I have said there will be aerodynamic and engine options, just as there are across the portfolio, but we must launch them at the right time and when we believe there is a business case."   Continued...

Airbus unit CEO Fabrice Bregier attends the Airbus annual news conference in Colomiers, near Toulouse January 13, 2015.  REUTERS/Regis Duvignau