By Filip Kopeć
The Airbus A350 is on the third wave of big orders in its history as airlines all over the world race to prepare for future demand,
Seems like the game is on for the Airbus A350. This year’s orders from Qatar Airways, Lufthansa, Air India and the most recent from Air France-KLM are rejuvenating the order book of the Airbus A350 completely.
The sudden blow of the 2020 pandemic brought the order flow to a stall. During the three years of 2020-2023, the Airbus A350 gained exactly one net new order according to the manufacturer. That came to a change in 2023.
Born For The Third Time
Since the announcement of the type, the Airbus A350 had two big moments when it comes to orders. The first big tickets came in 2007 and 2008 from the likes of Emirates, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines. Following the first flight on the 14 June 2013 further operators gained trust in the type. Large orders from Air France, Iberia and Lufthansa signified all of the biggest airline groups from Europe opting in on the Airbus A350.
Now, closing Q3 of 2023, it’s been a bit over a year since major market reopenings. South Korea and India contribute significantly to the long-haul flows. The pent up demand is fully visible in the passenger flown data. Teams at network planning departments had the time to assess the trajectory of the market. The year started off with Qatar Airways and Lufthansa Group adding to the existing orders notably with 23 and 10 units.
The real breakthrough in the perception came in though with the earth-shaking Air India order that included 34 A350 seemingly like a cherry on top.
The Air France-KLM order brings the number to 161, meaning 2023 is the fourth best year so far, but 2023 is not done yet. Hopefully, we will see more carriers coming forward. Is that something that Airbus could handle?
The A350 model production was turned down significantly at the brink of the pandemic. The manufacturer cut the production rate by approximately half. This meant going down to only around five units rolled-out in an average month – a level that is not even sufficient to reach the breakeven point for production.
Due to continuous supply chain constraints, the rate has not seen a similar comeback as did the passenger demand. As of now, it stands barely at six units per month, which is far from the 2019 watermark of almost 10. The roadmap set by the manufacturer in the 2022 Annual Report predicts reaching an average of nine units produced monthly by the end of 2025. A rough calculation says that the backlog for an Airbus A350 is currently 5-7 years long.
Overall, the Airbus A350 is nowhere near close to the numbers produced of the A320 family. Given the aircraft is bringing approximately three times higher unit revenue, though, it is still a meaningful part of the portfolio.
The manufacturer is visibly taking a course correction and ramping up production of all the aircraft families to match the pre-pandemic trend. This will only mean more orders and deliveries that will be welcomed by aviation professionals and passengers traveling onboard.