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‘Let’s wait and see’: IATA boss criticises Airbus’ output push

written by Isabella Richards | May 31, 2021

Willie Walsh, Director General , IATA

Willie Walsh, director-general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), has said European planemaker Airbus appears too ambitious with its recently-proposed A320 output increase.

Last week, Airbus announced it would increase its monthly output for A320 jets from 40 per month, currently, to 45 by the fourth quarter of 2021. Long term, the A320 family jet output will reach up to 75 per month within four years.

However, the IATA boss sees this proposal as overly optimistic.

“Let’s wait and see, because obviously there is a huge disconnect between what the manufacturers say they’re going to produce and what the airlines decide to buy,” Walsh told Reuters.

Walsh, an accomplished businessman in the sector as previous CEO of international conglomerate International Airline Group, appeared to suggest that Airbus’ expansion intentions do not align with the purchase intentions of the airlines, as they continue to face the aftermath of the COVID pandemic.

“So, you know that they’re in the business of selling. I don’t see that there’s going to be the requirement for whatever it is they’re producing,” he added.

However, Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury stated he is confident that Airbus can deliver on its output increases, in light of increasing demand for medium-haul jetliners, combined with recent optimism towards air travel.


“I think we should not overestimate our level of confidence, but we should also not underestimate the fact that after the crisis it is no longer a crisis,” Faury told Reuters.

“It is just there. The pent-up demand is very strong for those flights.”

Along with the A320 family, output increases the A220, A350, and A330 families are also underway.

It follows comments made by Faury in March, in which he said that he expects demand for medium-haul air travel to recover to pre-pandemic levels in 2023, far faster than long-haul travel.

The Airbus CEO said that some of the industry’s trusted narrow-bodied workhorses, including the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 families of aircraft, will lead the industry’s recovery, and that bigger jets are likely to continue to fall out of favour with airlines due to lack of demand and increased running costs.

“We think on the single-aisle business, on the narrow-body planes, it is probably going to be around 2023 [until pre-pandemic capacity is met], and for the wide-body planes around 2024, 2025; we don’t really know,” Faury said.

“There is more uncertainty on how fast and how strongly the international traffic will recover.”

The news also comes just days after IATA released a new report that appeared to see it revise its current forecast for travel demand recovery to 2023, down from its previous forecast of 2024, as global border restrictions begin to ease.

In a report released in conjunction with Tourism Economics, IATA is now projecting that international passenger numbers will hit 52 per cent of pre-pandemic levels throughout 2021, with this figure increasing to 88 per cent by 2022.

Most notably, the industry body is now predicting that international air travel demand will in fact surpass 2019 levels by the end of 2023, ultimately reaching 105 per cent of pre-COVID capacity.

Previously, the IATA had forecast that the industry would not see a return to 2019 traffic demand until at least 2024.


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