The Airbus rumor mill seems to be back in operation as the airframer entices further speculation about an A220 stretch. Airbus’ Chief Commercial Officer has suggested that an Airbus A220-500 is inevitable. But that’s amid Airbus’ attempts to manage expectations and rebuke any suggestion that the aircraft is on its way to production.
Not “If”, but “When”
It appears that Airbus is no longer shying away from suspicions around a stretch variation of the Airbus A220. The airframer has previously claimed that the development of an Airbus A220-500, the stretched version of the A220 is not a priority at the moment. However, its production continues to be a topic of interest.
On a conference call with French journalists, Reuters reports that the Chief Commercial Officer at Airbus said that the question to be asked regarding the stretched A220 was:
“Not a question of if, but when.”
And that’s now the question on our lips: when will Airbus let us in on its plans for the A220-500?
It appears Airbus is not denying that it’s thought of developing the stretched A220. However, it continues to be evasive about a timeline. But, why? We know that there is an interest is out there, not least from airBaltic.
Airbus has had a mightly successful year posting 940 gross orders so far in 2019 which it reports in its latest order and delivery figures. And the A220 continues to be a popular choice. But airlines ordering the aircraft of late are largely opting for the A220-300, the larger of the two versions. Air France-KLM firmed up an order of 60 of these just yesterday (18th December 2019). Clearly, there could be a fairly large appetite for the A220-500.
SimpleFlying.com contacted Airbus for more information about when we might see A220-500 production. It told Simple Flying:
“As a leading aircraft manufacturer, we are in constant dialogue with our customers and constantly looking at potential ways of improving our products. We are focused on ramping-up and selling our current aircraft models, the A220-100 and the A220-300. The platform has the potential to grow but we are focused on ramping-up the programme and supporting our new customers’ entry-into-service. In the long-term, the platform would evolve according to the Airbus product policy.”
When will Airbus Make the Leap?
But, despite the interest, would Airbus actually make the leap to bring out the Airbus A220-500 any time soon? Well, we have reason to speculate that it might arrive sooner than previously thought.
In light of the production suspension of Boeing 737 aircraft, it’s likely that an A220-500 would sell well. And with the ending of A380 production, it might well be that Airbus has more room in its schedule to experiment with new aircraft.
However, Airbus really doesn’t have any intention of making the A220-500 its chief concern. It already has a strong market for its current A220 aircraft but, more than that, sales of the A320 family aircraft make up the majority of its orders. At the current moment in time, it seems that the A220-500 would not really make Airbus’ sales much better. In fact, it could hamper already successful aircraft, cannibalizing sales of the A320neo.
But if it’s not the success of its existing aircraft that’s at stake, it’s Airbus’ environmental pledge. Besides the development of the A220-500, Airbus has got other new aircraft on its mind. In particular, it is considering more eco-friendly planes that will adhere to carbon neutrality goals for 2030.
Needless to say, Airbus has a plateful of ideas and heaped spoonfuls of speculation to go alongside. But the important thing is that it does have a design it can call upon if it needed to. But now might not quite be the right time.