By Tim Hepher
PARIS (Reuters) – Airbus is preparing the ground for further delays to planned delivery dates of some medium-haul aircraft in 2023 even as it races to meet delivery targets for 2022 in the face of supply chain and labour problems, three industry sources said.
The twin-speed approach comes as uncertainty remains over supplies of engines for new plane production as well as other parts and labour, they added, asking not to be named.
A spokesperson for Airbus said it had no comment on deliveries ahead of its next monthly bulletin in early December.
Analysts say aerospace is grappling with a series of concurrent problems with multiple knock-on effects.
Jetliner and engine makers are battling supply chain and labour problems, but so too are the worldwide repair shops needed to help airlines meet a sharper than expected recovery in demand by keeping their existing aircraft in service.
The logjam in repair capacity has left dozens of planes grounded as their engines are late coming out of overhaul, and that in turn has created competition for engines between new aircraft assembly lines and spares for the existing fleet.
At least one engine maker is experiencing renewed pressure to shift more engines away from supporting aircraft production to a pool of spares for existing customers, the sources said.
Airbus produces A320-neo family jets with a choice of engines from General Electric and Safran joint venture CFM International or Raytheon Technologies unit Pratt & Whitney. Boeing uses solely CFM for its 737 family.
Data showing how many jets are unused because of maintenance delays as opposed to economic or other reasons is not available. But there are signs the total number of parked A320neo-family jets has risen since early this year, led by Pratt versions, even as demand for travel on such aircraft has been increasing.
Currently some 129 Pratt-powered Airbus jets and 55 fitted with CFM’s LEAP engines are parked, according to Ascend by Cirium’s head of global consulting Rob Morris.
Neither engine maker had any immediate comment.
In October, Airbus and Safran struck a more upbeat note on recently disrupted engine supplies than Boeing, which said during quarterly earnings that engines were its main constraint.
At the same time, engine industry sources insist snags on their side of the fence are not solely to blame for delays. One executive denied any additional pressure on engine supplies.
Jetmakers have been facing difficulties getting other parts on time including galleys and lavatories, one executive said.
In July, Airbus said it would reach an interim production goal of 65 A320-family narrow-body jets a month in early 2024 instead of summer 2023. It targets 75 a month in 2025.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by William Maclean, Alexander Smith and Frances Kerry)