Airbus could withdraw from a commitment to increase A330 production to 11 aircraft per month in two years’ time, if there is no change to the European Union (EU) emissions trading scheme (ETS), according to programs executive vice president Tom Williams. Having increased A330 build rates steadily over the past five years from seven a month, the European airframer has until now been planning to increase from the current 9 to 10 in 2013 and then to 11 per month a year later.
Under the plan, all airlines would have to buy carbon-emission allowances when flying into EU airports or through EU airspace. Major countries, including China, India, Russia, Japan and the U.S., have been leading protests against the imposition of ETS on non-EU carriers. For instance, the Chinese government has blocked Chinese airlines from buying up to 45 Airbus aircraft.
“The [scheme] has to be discussed and negotiated at the global level,” said Airbus chief executive Fabrice Bregier. “The EU has started in this direction, and Airbus hopes it moves faster toward a global solution.” At last month’s International Air Transport Association annual meeting in Beijing, Airbus chief operating officer (customers) John Leahy said, “We agree with the frustrations of the Chinese airlines and the Chinese government.”
The manufacturer does not oppose the principle of the ETS, which Bregier describes as an incentive to contain emissions. He said the goal is to keep worldwide aviation emissions stable while passenger traffic continues rising at 4 to 5 percent a year.
Leahy pointed out that continuous traffic growth–which Airbus forecasts will average 4.8 percent annually for the next 20 years–does not mean that fuel consumption, and therefore emissions, must increase at the same rate. Indeed, since 2000, traffic has gone up by some 53 percent, while fuel demand has increased just 3 percent.
At the beginning of June, Airbus had a backlog of some 320 orders for the A330, sufficient to provide work until early 2015 if production is not increased to 11 per month. About 880 of the 1,199 ordered A330s have been delivered.
Last year, Airbus took orders for 99 A330s, with Leahy claiming the aircraft continues to attract high market demand from “a lot of big customers [such as] Korean Air, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and Saudi Arabian.” Calling the A330 “the customers’ favorite,” he said there have been 324 net sales since 2008, compared with 272 for Boeing’s established 777 and 19 for the new 787. The period had seen 10 new A330 customers booked, against six new 777 operators and a net loss of three 787 customers.