Airbus is now in a very odd situation. It’s facing the almost certain early demise of the A380, with Emirates dithering over its commitment.
The A350 variants are now in production and little development is planned for the type past the ULR versions.
The A330-900 is in production and the -800 is now in test phase.
The A320 series in Neo form has entered production and the only possible development is the talked of A321XLR – if it ever happens.
The A220 is out of development and into production.
Meanwhile Boeing is completing the 737 Max developments with the 10 and the 777-8/9 are about to start flight testing inside a year or so. Even more significantly the mid-range 797-X is not far from being publicly announced.
Airbus appears to have nothing.
If they think the A321 is going to be a competitive model against the 797-X they need to get a grip.
When a brand new from the ground up model hits the market there won’t be any leeway for a lesser aircraft if it makes as much sense to airlines as it’s certain to do. Boeing won’t produce it unless airlines want it.
So what’s next for Airbus?
The answer must surely be one of two things: either a totally new A330 replacement to compete – which seems unlikely and the market is probably not big enough – or its time to start on snatching the lead in the guise of a single aisle next generation aircraft. A totally new A390X series as a replacement for the A320.
Such a move would catapult the airline to the forefront of the biggest potential growth area in the market: Short to Mid-haul single aisles.
It’s time for a genuinely revolutionary design – part electric possibly, with an upgraded engine working in tandem to cut emissions and fuel burn, so drastically no airline will be able to ignore it.
Of course it will cost billions of euros to develop – but this is aviation and the rewards are massive, both for Airbus, European aerospace and the environment.