© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An Airbus logo is seen at the entrance to its factory in Blagnac near Toulouse, France, July 2, 2020. REUTERS / Benoit Tessier / File Photo
By Tim Hepher
TOULOUSE, France (Reuters) – Airbus (Pa 🙂 is in talks with several potential customers for a new A350 cargo plane while seeing signs of demand for smaller A320 passenger jets in Europe, its sales manager said on Tuesday .
With the rise of e-commerce, Airbus officially began marketing a proposed freight variant for its A350 airliner in July, aimed at strengthening Boeing’s grip on the global freight market.
“We are in a number of very encouraging discussions,” commercial director Christian Scherer told reporters in Toulouse, where the European aircraft manufacturer is based.
“It is available for sale and is being sold,” he added.
Boeing (NYSE 🙂 has dominated the specially designed cargo aircraft market for years, even as its European rival seized the crown as the world’s largest manufacturer of passenger aircraft.
Boeing is preparing to launch its own new freighter, a cargo version of its upcoming 777X airliner, industry sources say.
Freighters can sell for higher prices than passenger planes and help support lower production of wide-body models at a time when long-haul travel is low, industry experts say.
While the demand for large jet aircraft remains stagnant, the demand for smaller aircraft used in regional and national markets is increasing.
“The demand is coming back,” Scherer said. “We have to be very careful – we are not out of the woods and we are still in a very fragile environment – but Europe is mobilizing quite well at the moment.”
Airbus plans to increase production of the A320neo medium-haul family, which competes with Boeing’s 737 MAX, to a record 63 per month from 40, exceeding pre-crisis levels.
He said he also plans to increase production up to 75 per month, but such levels have raised concerns about the supply chains of engine makers like France. Saffron (PENNSYLVANIA:).
Scherer defended existing production commitments, which he said were justified by contracts with airlines even after an industry disruption caused by the coronavirus crisis.
“If anything in my world, I challenge them to be stiffer,” he said.
Airbus is in talks with Hungarian company Wizz Air about selling at least 100 other narrow-body planes, Reuters reported earlier this month.
Among other European prospects, British Airways parent company IAG (LON 🙂 has reopened new competition between Airbus and Boeing for narrow-body aircraft, revisiting a large interim order for 200 MAX jets that was never finalized, the sources said.
Finnair is considering a narrow-body purchase, but a formal tender has yet to be issued.
Air France-KLM announced in July that it had launched a call for tenders to extend the medium-haul fleets of the Dutch unit KLM and the French and Dutch branches of the low-cost subsidiary Transavia.
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