Airbus SE has put on hold its plan to remodel the A380 wide-body assembly line in Toulouse, France, into a "digitally enabled" line for assembling its A321 narrow-body jet. The plan was introduced in January, before the drop in new commercial aircraft orders began to impact the Airbus, and before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week Airbus SA announced a plan to cut its total production rates by about 33%, to adapt to "the new Coronavirus market environment," including "a short-term cash containment plan as well as its longer-term cost structure."
The group noted it delivered 122 new aircraft during Q1 2020, but a further 60 aircraft were completed and could not be delivered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Going forward, Airbus said it will manufacture 40 A320s per month, two A330s and six A350s. Last year, Airbus announced it would discontinue A380 production due to a lack of market demand.
When Airbus announced plans to convert the A380 line it was operating under the influence of a long period of rising demand for new mid-sized aircraft. The Toulouse operation would help fill a backlog of orders for the A321neo, which is assembled at Hamburg, Germany. Reportedly, the Hamburg plant has had some difficulty maintaining a production rate sufficient to meet aircraft delivery schedules.
New aircraft orders have declined in recent months, and now the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a widespread change in aircraft demand. Multiple reports indicate carriers and aircraft leasing companies have cancelled previously placed orders for new aircraft.
Airbus paused operations at its plants in France and Spain in late March. Production and assembly have "resumed gradually" in France, but now commercial aircraft wing production operations in the U.K. and commercial aircraft production in Spain and Canada have been paused, in line with inventory levels as well as government restrictions.
Last week Airbus halted commercial aircraft production at its plants in Bremen and Stade, Germany, and halted production at the A220/A320 manufacturing plant in Mobile, Ala. The Alabama plant will be offline until April 29, Airbus said.
“Our plans for an A321 line in Toulouse are paused, on hold,” an Airbus spokesman told Reuters. “When we see rates going up again, we will reconnect to the plans.”