Sunday, February 28

Despite the violence of the crisis, Airbus limits the damage

The year 2020 will have finally been a little less bad than anticipated for Airbus. Despite an unprecedented crisis, the world number one in aeronautics has managed to deliver 566 planes. A total certainly far from the record of 863 devices in 2019, but slightly higher than the 550 expected in the spring, after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the time, the European aircraft manufacturer had to resolve to reduce its production by 40%, by resorting, among other things, to partial unemployment. If Airbus has somewhat dampened the shock of the health crisis on its deliveries, it could not do anything on the side of orders. In 2020, the net balance amounts to only 268 aircraft while, a year earlier, the group had registered 768, which had led it to the top step of the podium ahead of its great American rival, Boeing.

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At Airbus, we refuse to make any predictions for 2021. Always very cautious, the CEO, Guillaume Faury, nevertheless agrees to declare himself “Reasonably optimistic, (…) even if uncertainties remain high in the short term ”. In particular because the group should find “A positive cash flow”, says Xavier Petrachi, national union delegate of CGT Airbus. A return to better fortune linked to the December record, with 89 deliveries, notes the trade unionist.

“Continuation of the ramp-up in 2022 and 2023”

So much so that the European aircraft manufacturer is preparing to increase ” earlier than expected “ its production of medium-haul aircraft – the A320 family aircraft -, explains Mr. Petrachi. The group had been forced to slow down to 40 devices per month, against 60 before the crisis. M. Faury confirms it with a hint: “Production will remain stable over the first part of the year, then we are projecting a slight increase in production rates and a continued ramp-up in 2022 and 2023.”

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Airbus has also asked its supplier chain to organize itself accordingly, according to the CGT, and the group could ultimately cut fewer jobs than expected as part of the job saving plan. According to Xavier Petrachi, “A little less than half of the 4,300 posts should actually be eliminated”, also thanks to the implementation of the long-term partial activity and to the financial assistance provided by the recovery plan.

While Airbus is finding some colors, its competitor Boeing is still mired in the crisis, with, in 2020, only 118 deliveries and more than 1,048 order cancellations. It must be said that the American giant has failed to take advantage of the development of air transport in recent years. A sector driven by the growth of low-cost airlines in the medium-haul segment. Faced with Airbus, which has developed a whole family of planes around its flagship, the A320neo, Boeing has only its 737 MAX to oppose. However, this aircraft was immobilized on the ground for nearly twenty-one months, after two disasters which caused the death of 346 passengers and crew members.

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