The A321 was once an after thought that not many years ago sold just 4% of the A320 family series.
That figure is now 41%.
Airbus achieved this by seeing that the 757 was now ageing and MAX9/10 weren’t long enough ranged to match it.
By creating the Neo, then the XL and the XLR on top of that, Airbus created a new range of aircraft from the existing series.
Part of the attraction for airlines was Airbus offering a wide range of cabin interiors, that in effect were customisable to a level the company may now regret.
The CabinFlex options are so varied that American Airlines have just 102 seats and flat beds, while Indigo has 240 high density seating cabins. The requirements are very different, from toilets and plumbing to escape doors and fuselage variations.
It’s so complex that Airbus have hired 1,000 new employees and added 20 new robots to streamline operations.
On top of having to build a new production line in Hamburg for the A321 which unsurprisingly has taken some time to get up to full capacity (and isn’t yet), the complexity of so many interior options has slowed down production.
There are so many variations and the way production works, rarely sees two aircraft for the same airline following another, that assembly crews have struggled to assimilate the new interior kit. On top of that not all of the parts arrive in time yet, slowing rates by as much as 11%.
All of these problems are eventually resolvable but it’s irritating customers and stopping Airbus meeting its targets.
New production lines also mean slower quality assessments until problems have been ironed out. While Airbus knew it would take time, by all accounts it’s taken far longer than their worst estimates.
Some rumours suggest Airbus is loosing €11m per aircraft at present, and that’s a huge sum, but it’s working flat out to resolve the problems.
Part of the solution is an additional line at Toulouse once the last A380 departs, learning from the Hamburg Finkewerder line and expanding deliveries to more rapidly meet the demand from anxious customers.
There’s no doubt they will be grateful, the most in demand aircraft in the single aisle market can transform routes previously unviable. Airlines want it as soon as they can get it.