Fresh from its landmark order from Indigo Partners announced at the Dubai Airshow on November 14, Airbus followed up on the 15th with another huge order, from regular customer Air Lease Corporation (ALC). The deal included 25 A220-300s, 55 A321neos, 20 A321XLRs, four A330-990neos, and seven A350F freighters, marking the latter type’s launch order.
Details of the deal came to light during a video call between ALC’s executive chairman Steven Udvar-Hazy and CEO and president John Plueger in Texas with Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury and CCO Christian Scherer in Dubai. The 111 aircraft bring ALC’s orders for Airbus aircraft to 496.
”ALC was the launch customer for the very popular A321LR and XLR versions. Now, we become the launch lessor for the A350F and by far the largest lessor customer for the A220,” commented Udvar-Hazy. “We had the vision to be first adopters of the A321 and are convinced we have made the right choice again on the A220 and A350F, responding to what we see the market will need in the period of recovery ahead.”
Faury expressed his opinion that the deal represented a sign that “things are starting to look more positive” as the industry rebounds from effects of the Covid pandemic. Udvar-Hazy concurred: “Today is November 15, 2021. The day has come where we will look forward, not back.”
Regarding each type, ALC noted it sees increased demand for the A220, of which the lessor already has ordered 50. The 25 recently added represented the exercise of an option on an earlier order. Demand for the A321neo remains strong, and this latest order will increase the size of ALC’s fleet to almost 300. Airbus agreed to schedule most of the new order, including the A321XLRs, for delivery in the second half of the 2020s, allowing Air Lease to secure prime availability of slots.
Faury said that Airbus has committed to reaching monthly production of 65 aircraft by mid-2023 while it studies raising that rate to 70 or even 75 thereafter. The four A330neos continue to expand ALC’s portfolio of the widebody type, and all have already been placed with operators.
As launch customer for the A350 freighter, Udvar-Hazy noted that seven aircraft “was a good place to start” and hoped to add more in the future. Developed to meet a demand from the market, the aircraft offers a range of nearly 5,000 nm with a full 109-tonne payload and, crucially, is the only aircraft that can meet the target figures for noise and emissions slated to come into effect in 2027.
ALC has already entered discussions with five potential customers for the A350F, which is due for delivery starting in 2026. By that time, Airbus believes, operators of many of the current converted airliner-type freighters such as the Boeing 747 and MD-11 will have begun the process of removing them from service. The efficiencies that new aircraft can bring to the cargo sector compared with legacy types are far more pronounced over long-haul routes, and Airbus envisions a global long-haul fleet of about 900 aircraft, of which the proportion of new-build aircraft will increase compared to today’s figures.
Faury also confirmed that Airbus is studying single-pilot operation (SPO) for the future, and that the freight sector would be a good place to start due to the nature of its operations. He further suggested that the A350 would be an ideal candidate for SPO flights due to its advanced flight control system and avionics.