Airbus Seeks 15,000 A320neo Sales in 20 Years to Lower Fuel

Airbus Group NV said it aims to sell about 15,000 A320neo planes over the next 20 years as customers look to replace existing single-aisle airliners with a model that promises 20 percent more fuel efficiency.

The A320neo performed its first test flight today from Toulouse, southern France, and has almost 3,300 orders, making it the fastest-selling aircraft in civil aviation. Airbus predicted yesterday that the global aviation industry will need 22,000 single-aisle planes in the next 20 years, a market that for now is roughly split between Airbus and Boeing Co.

The A320neo is an advancement of Airbus’s most successful airliner, which performed its maiden flight in 1987. That plane laid the foundation for commercial success that has allowed the company to branch out into programs that now include the A350 wide-body airliner due for delivery later this year and the A380 double-decker that first flew almost a decade ago.

“Fuel is 40 percent of the operating cost of a plane, and we’re forecasting fuel in 10 years at $160 a barrel,” Airbus sales chief John Leahy said today in an interview after the plane took off. “With 15 percent to 20 percent greater fuel efficiency, that makes this a game-changer.”

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The first A320neos will go to airlines in late 2015, beginning with Qatar Airways Ltd., Deutsche Lufthansa AG, India’s IndiGo, and lessor Aercap Holdings.

The A320neo, powered in today’s flight by Pratt & Whitney’s geared turbofan engine, is one of eight test planes. Airbus later this year will begin testing the plane with the CFM International Leap engine, a joint venture between General Electric Co. and France’s Safran SA.

Leahy said he expects the sales tally over 20 years to reach at least 15,000 because the company has sold about 11,000 A320 classic versions.

“There’s no reason we can’t replace all those and then some,” Leahy said.

The initial A320neos will rely principally on the new engines for the fuel advantage, with changes to the wing also improving aerodynamic flow.

By 2020, additional improvements will come from more seats fitted into the aircraft, with the A319 moving to 160 seats from 156, the A320 to 189 from 180, and the A320 to 240 from 220. Additional space will come from shrinking the lavatories, redesigning the space alloted to food preparation, and dropping a pair of exit doors on the A321 variant.

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