The market has been buzzing about an A320neo Plus family for a few years. A “Plus” would be modestly stretched neos (plus 12 seats for each family member, plus more range). Most focus, however, has been on the prospect of a re-winged, re-engined A321neo called the A322 in most conversations. (Former COO Customers John Leahy once referred to the concept as the A321neo Plus Plus in an interview.)
The Plus would thrust the A321neo 12 seats ahead of the Boeing 737 MAX 10. Range would be added as well. The 737-10 has slightly more range than the baseline A321neo, though the A321LR and all-but-launched A321XLR has significantly more range.
The additional 12 seats for the A320neo (with 165 now a common two-class) would put the airplane on a capacity par with American Airlines’ 172-seat 737-8. More range would put the baseline on a par with the MAX 8.
A 12-seat boost for the A319neo would match the Boeing 737-7’s 138 seats and provide a slight difference to the A220-300’s 130-seat two-class configuration.
Airbus, and Boeing, have been adamant that engine technology must drive development of a new single-aisle airplane. Each company says new engines won’t provide enough fuel burn savings until 2030.
Both companies have shown future airplane concepts, with Airbus being a little more open about its ideas than Boeing.
A lot of attention has been paid to Open Rotors. Airbus seems to like the idea more than Boeing.
Airbus’ A321LR is only now entering service. The A321XLR is a target date EIS of 2022-23, according to airlines that have been briefed on the concept.
Boeing’s MAX 200 is scheduled to enter service next year. The 10 MAX follows in 2020.
These EIS dates suggest that launching a new single-aisle airplane program with a 2030 EIS would have to come around 2025 at the latest and probably somewhat before.
Both companies have sold single-aisle deliveries to the late 2020 decade. Airbus has some deliveries to 2030.
There would, of course, be some overlap between the A320/737 families and the new airplanes well into the 2030 decade.
But launching a new single-aisle airplane program with a 2025-27 EIS seems to be counter-intuitive.
The A220 covers Airbus’ 100-150 seat sector and there is plenty of life in this product.
The Embraer E2 program still leaves a big gap in Boeing’s product line, but launching a new single-aisle for only the 125-150 segment doesn’t make any sense. (All this assumes the Boeing-Embraer JV proceeds.)
This concept undoubtedly is part of Airbus’ product development study, as is an entirely new wide-body that would better compete with the larger Boeing NMA-7 than the A330-800 does. (There is some indication some airlines are interested in an even larger NMA-8, but this seems an unlikely prospect.)
But there is plenty of room for inexpensive performance improvement packages (PIPs) for the A350. An A350neo, with a new Rolls-Royce that is now under development, would be an expensive proposition for an airplane that will be just 10 years old in 2025, when in theory the new RR engine will be available.
Still, the engines for the Boeing 787 were designed in 2003, making these 22 years old by 2025. If Boeing decides a 787RE makes sense by then, Airbus may feel compelled to upgrade the A350.
Studies, however, are a long way from reality.