February 20, 2018 / 3:22 PM / 8 months ago

UPDATE 1-Airbus sees A320neo progress, upbeat on A350 suppliers

(Adds quotes, background)

By Alexander Cornwell

TOULOUSE, France, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Airbus said it was making good progress in resolving Pratt & Whitney engine snags that were holding up some A320neo narrowbody deliveries, and gave a fresh signal it was considering raising output of its larger A350 wide-body jet.

Programmes Chief Didier Evrard told reporters on Tuesday that Airbus could cope with more than 10 A350 deliveries a month, the target which Airbus aims to reach by end-2018 in spite of some recent delays in the cabin supply chain.

“I think our first objective was to get there. After that it will be another decision to go or stay,” Evrard said.

“The supply chain will certainly be able to cope with more ramping up. It is a decision you take with the supply chain and we will make sure it is ready,” he said.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the inaugural delivery of the largest version of the jet, the A350-1000, to launch customer Qatar Airways.

Chief Executive Tom Enders said last week a decision would be taken this year on whether to increase production of the A350, which competes with Boeing’s 787 and 777.

At the same time, Airbus and U.S. rival Boeing are considering raising output of their workhorse narrowbody jets to about 70 a month from planned levels of between 57 and 60.

But Airbus is wrestling with the latest in a series of snags at one of two engine suppliers for this category of aircraft, United Technologies unit Pratt & Whitney.

Last week, it halted deliveries of A320neo aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney engines.

The move came after the European Aviation Safety Agency effectively grounded some recently delivered A320neo-family jets, a decision mirrored by U.S. authorities.

Asked about efforts to resolve the problem, Evrard said: “We are making good progress with Pratt & Whitney on the solution to this issue, which is at the scale of the fleet a small issue.”

He said it was “a little bit too early” to say how quickly a fix could be identified and introduced.

Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders said last week deliveries might resume in April.

Aircraft using alternative LEAP engines from CFM International are not affected, although deliveries of those engines have been delayed by several weeks.

Evrard said Airbus aimed to secure new buyers for the A380, the world’s largest airliner which has been placed on life support due to slack demand. Emirates recently confirmed an order for up to 36 planes, enough to maintain output at half an airplane a month in the 2020s while Airbus seeks other buyers.

Evrard said much had been learned about how to arrange the cabin to make the aircraft as efficient as possible to operate.

“We will now relaunch our marketing,” he said.

The head of Qatar Airways said it had no plans to order more A380s. (Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Writing by Tim Hepher; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Edmund Blair)

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