When Airbus announced that the days of the A380 production are numbered on February 14, 2019, many questions were raised. One of them was, of course, what would happen with the facilities and employees at Toulouse, France, where the Super Jumbo is assembled.
And on January 21, 2020, the manufacturer answered the question. Starting mid-2021, the Lagardère site in Toulouse will accommodate an Airbus A321 family Final Assembly Line (FAL), which according to Airbus will be digitally enabled and provide “more flexibility” for the production of Airbus’ largest narrow-body product.
Chief Operating Officer of Airbus Michael Schoellhorn stated that the company sees an unprecedented amount of attention from customers towards its A320neo family products, especially the A321 Long Range (LR) and Xtra Long Range (XLR) derivatives.
“In order to optimize the industrial flow, we have decided to increase our global A321 production capacity and flexibility as well as to establish a next-generation Final Assembly Line in Toulouse,” Schoellhorn added.
Toulouse is seemingly the perfect choice for the manufacturer. Once the A380 production ceases, it will not only have a lot of free space, but also extra hands from the double-decker’s former workforce. The city in the south of France is also valued by Airbus for the overall competitiveness and time to market of the location.
Currently, there are only two FAL’s where the A321 is completed: Hamburg, Germany and Mobile, Alabama.
Booming demand of the A321
Following the announcement of the A321XLR during the Paris Air Show 2019 in June 2019, the demand for the A321 family has been booming. Airbus ended the year with 654 net orders for the A320 family, including the smallest variant, the A319. However, 468 orders were for the A321neo aircraft alone, making up for more than two-thirds of the demand for Airbus’ narrow-body products.
In comparison, the previous year out of the total 541 net orders for A320 family products, only 137 were for the A321, including one order for an A321ceo from VietJet, a Vietnamese low-cost carrier, according to the company’s Orders and Deliveries data file.
However, Airbus has been struggling to meet delivery schedules with the A321neo, specifically from the Hamburg facility. Customers, including Aer Lingus, jetBlue and Wizz Air, have publicly expressed their frustration with the manufacturer failing to meet delivery schedules of the A321.
For example, while speaking at AIR Convention 2019 in Vilnius, Lithuania, Wizz Air’s Chief Executive József Váradi stated that the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) are “struggling with delivering their commitments to the operators.”
“We know the Boeing situation [the 737 MAX crisis – ed.note], but Airbus is not much better either,” he continued, as the manufacturers “are simply failing to deliver their contractual commitments.”