Airbus Postpones Delivery of First A320neo by Several Weeks

  • Plane was due to be delivered to Lufthansa before year-end
  • Airbus cites issues with documentation for single-aisle plane

Airbus Group SE postponed the first delivery of its A320neo model airliner by at least several weeks as it addresses issues with documentation for the aircraft, adding to the woes for the single-aisle plane that constitutes the majority of the company’s production.

The delayed delivery to Deutsche Lufthansa AG comes just about a week after Indian airline IndiGo disclosed that it had been told its first jet would be late and three weeks after Qatar Airways Ltd., originally set to be the first customer, put back deliveries, citing engine issues. Airbus had planned to deliver the plane to Lufthansa this week.

The A320neo is critical to Airbus’s future -- the company has won close to 4,500 orders since first offering the plane for sale in 2010. It’s a more fuel-efficient model of the best-selling A320, widely flown by low-cost operators. U.S. archrival Boeing Co. began developing a competing aircraft more than a year after Airbus got to work. Boeing sent the first 737 Max to a paint shop on Nov. 30, meeting to the day a timeline set four years ago. Airbus itself had appeared to be sticking to its own schedule until delays emerged this month.

“It’s a disappointment for Airbus because they’d promised delivery by year-end,” Addison Schonland, an analyst with AirInsight Inc., said in a telephone interview. “At the same time, delays seems to be the new normal for all plane programs as the only program that seems to be on time so far is the Boeing 737 Max.”

Documentation Issues

Airbus chose to push back the first handover in agreement with Lufthansa and engine maker Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp., the company said in an e-mailed statement.

The planemaker cited documentation issues without offering specifics. A spokesman said further detail wouldn’t be available until early next week. Documentation typically refers to information concerning a plane’s maintenance and operations, some of which needs to be approved by local authorities before an airline can begin operating a new plane type.

“The engine is ready to enter service and is meeting or exceeding all performance requirements for fuel burn, noise and emissions,” Sara Banda, a Pratt & Whitney spokeswoman, said by telephone. She referred all questions about documentation requirements to Airbus.

IndiGo’s Delay

In the case of IndiGo, the carrier’s owner, InterGlobe Aviation Ltd., cited “industrial reasons” for the delay.

Qatar Airways, due to be the first user of the revamped narrow-body, balked at taking receipt because of problems with the cooling of the jet’s Pratt & Whitney turbines that may mean aircraft have to be held on the ground for longer. Lufthansa subsequently stepped in to take the initial delivery, with IndiGo scheduled to be next in line.

Delays in delivering new aircraft models aren’t unusual. Boeing was three years behind schedule with its 787 Dreamliner, leading airlines to seek millions of dollars of compensation from the Chicago-based planemaker.

Besides the Pratt & Whitney engine, the A320neo also is available with power plants from CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric Co. and France’s Safran SA.

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