Airbus has resumed work on the expansion and modernization of its A320-family production capacity in Toulouse, France, the company said Wednesday. The European airframer suspended plans to start construction last year with its decision to cut commercial production by some 40 percent soon after the onset of the Covid crisis.
Scheduled to become operational by the end of 2022, the A320/A321 line will replace one of the original A320 final assembly lines (FALs) and reside in the former A380 Lagardère facility. The project introduces initial A321 capacity to Toulouse as the larger of the two A320neo-family narrowbodies accounts for more of the A320-family’s demand. Airbus now assembles A321s only in Hamburg, Germany, and Mobile, Alabama.
At the start of the A320 program, A321s accounted for just 10 percent of all sales. The A321neo now represents more than half of the A320-family backlog of 5,650 airplanes.
Airbus currently delivers 40 A320-family jets per month from four assembly sites, including Tianjin in China, whose single line produces A319s and A320s. Meanwhile, the line in Mobile produces A320s and A321s; four lines in Hamburg make all variants of the A320 family; and the two lines in Toulouse now produce only A320s.
The company said it will design the new FAL to accommodate A321XLR production, allowing for capacity beyond Hamburg for the variant when deliveries start in 2023.
“When it comes to 2020 production rates, we are planning now, and we will, for the single-aisle, continue the ramp-up,” said Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury during the company’s first-quarter 2021 earnings call. “So, you see 43 in Q3, 45 Q4, and it will continue to ramp up in 2022. We have already given indications to our supply chain, but that’s outside of what we call the firm horizon. So, we will solidify those numbers and communicate at a later stage once we enter into the firm horizon. But it’s a stiff ramp up in ’22 and ’23 for the single-aisle.”
Once Airbus returns to pre-Covid production rates, it expects to employ 500 people at the new FAL.