PARIS — Firm orders, agreements, memorandums of understanding… from the final signings down to the first public announcements, here’s what Airbus is up to at the Paris Air Show with the world’s airlines, including Saudia, VietJet, easyJet, AirAsia, Garuda, Avianca, Korean and EVA — and a massive 200-plane order from Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz.
Saudia Launches A330-300 Regional, Adds More A320s
In a surprise move, Saudi Arabian Airlines is the launch customer for the new regional version of the Airbus A330-300. Airbus was keeping the details close to its chest in Le Bourget, with no numbers released for either that order or the extra A320 family orders the airline has made.
The airline, also known as Saudia, has significant regional operations and faces notable traffic spikes and troughs around times of Muslim pilgrimage. The 400 seats (using an 18-inch seat example) of an A330-300 Regional will help the airline to meet demand.
The lower-weight, lower-cost A330 regional, announced in 2013 and “specially designed for regional and domestic operations, is Airbus’ solution for markets with large populations and fast growing, concentrated air traffic flows,” the airframer says.
VietJet Air Firms Order Six More Current-Gen A321s
Vietnamese low-cost carrier VietJet Air is adding six more A321s to its fleet with a firm order signed by President and CEO Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, who said, “since we took delivery of our first A321 in March this year, we have benefited strongly from the additional capacity offered by the aircraft and its low operating costs. We are therefore placing this additional order for the A321 to meet demand on some of our most popular routes.”
VietJet currently operates 25 A320 family aircraft and has now ordered a total of 44 more.
easyJet Maxes A320 Density to 186 Passengers With Lav-Galley Combo
European low-cost carrier easyJet, a major Airbus customer that only flies A320 family jets, has made a deal with Airbus’ retrofit division to add a full row of seats by installing the Space-Flex lavatory-galley combination on the rear wall of the aircraft.
Space-Flex essentially cuts the galley space down at the back of the aircraft and replaces it with a two-lavatory unit on the left-hand side of the aircraft.
The deal will max out the A320’s capacity to the newly recertified “Max-Pax” limit of 186 — great for airline economics, but doing nothing for the knee room on easyJet’s aircraft. On the plus side for passengers with reduced mobility, the two rear lavs can be combined into one larger facility that allows for simplified access.
“The first line-fit aircraft with Space-Flex V2 will arrive straight from the Airbus production line in May 2016, with the deliveries of upgrade kits for the retrofit aircraft planned between autumn 2016 and spring 2018,” Airbus said here.
AirAsia signs up for Airbus’ EFF electronic flight bag
With the number of Airbus aircraft operated or ordered by Asian super-LCC AirAsia, Airbus has struck the motherlode with its launch customer for the “Smarter Fleet” electronic flight folder (eFF), its offering in the electronic flight bag (EFB).
Airbus calls eFF “a comprehensive software application that allows pilots to access their briefing package on-board the aircraft, or from home, the hotel, or the crew briefing room. The software also offers enhanced capabilities to manage electronic forms such as the post flight journey log and air safety reports. It is interconnected with the airline environment delivering briefing packages and automatically archiving [sic] data.”
“At AirAsia we place great importance in making sure that our crew are equipped with the latest applications and an optimized working environment,” said Tony Fernandes, Group CEO of AirAsia, as he witnessed the signing in the Airbus chalet here. “With the latest solutions being offered by Airbus, we can reduce paper in the cockpit, enhance overall efficiency and ensure that we maintain the very highest standards of safety and operational excellence.”
And efficiency is important, given it has ordered a total of 571 Airbus jets: 475 A320 family aircraft for its AirAsia-branded franchises across Asia, together with 86 A330s and 10 A350s for the AirAsia X long-haul LCC operations.
Indonesian Flag Carrier Garuda Wants 30 A350 XWB Aircraft
With a letter of intent signed in Paris, Garuda Indonesia has signaled that it would like more than two dozen Airbus A350 widebodies, of a type to be determined.
“Following our success in revitalising our regional operation in Asia and the Pacific, the development of our long haul network will be a priority in the coming years,” Arif Wibowo, Garuda CEO, promised.
While Garuda’s return to European routes using Boeing 777-300ER aircraft has been rather underwhelming, perhaps the A350 will be the right size of jet for the mission. “Garuda Indonesia plans to use the A350 XWB to develop its medium- and long-haul network, with the aircraft offering the ability to fly non-stop from Jakarta or Bali to Europe,” says Airbus.
Avianca Brasil Needs 62 Jets From the A320neo Family
Brazilian and South American conglomerate Synergy Holdings is ordering 62 A320neo aircraft for its Avianca Brasil operations, with a memorandum of understanding signed in Paris this week.
“Thanks to their excellent eco-efficiency, reliability and comfort, the A320neo family will allow Synergy to strengthen its position in Latin America by offering Avianca Brasil passengers the best single aisle product available,” said parent group Synergy’s chairman German Efromovich.
And it’s not just about capacity. “The A320neo family will deliver Avianca Brasil with enhanced performance capabilities in key airports such as Santos Dumont in Rio de Janiero,” added Airbus customer chief John Leahy.
According to Airbus, “Synergy has ordered 10 A350 XWBs, six A330-200 passenger, one A330-200 Freighter and 20 A320 Family aircraft. Avianca Brasil operates 38 A320 Family and one A330 Freighter aircraft.”
Korean Wants A320 Family, and a lot of Them, With A321neo Memo
Airbus looks to have clinched a significant deal in Korea with a memorandum of understanding, the first step in an order, for 50 A321neo aircraft by Korean Air. Long a Boeing narrowbody operator, the order is, as Airbus President and CEO Fabrice Brégier said in Paris, “a very significant endorsement of the advantages offered by the A321neo at the top end of the single-aisle market. We look forward to seeing the A321neo take to the skies in the colors of Korean Air, flying alongside the airline’s existing Airbus widebody fleet.”
Korean Air Group Chairman Cho Yang Ho — father of the infamous “nut rage” former vice president Heather Cho Hyun-ah, freed from jail last month — signed the memorandum with Brégier.
“Korean Air will operate the A321neo with a two-class full service layout on regional services, including on longer sectors to selected destinations in South East Asia. The aircraft will be fitted with premium amenities, including wider seats in both classes and the latest in-flight entertainment and connectivity systems,” Airbus explained in Le Bourget.
EVA Air Plans More A330s for Regional and Long-Haul Flying
Taipei-based EVA Air — of Hello Kitty jet fame — wants four additional A330-300s from Airbus, and has signed a memorandum of understanding with the airframer in Paris to that effect.
“We are delighted that EVA Air has renewed its confidence in the A330,” enthused Airbus’s Leahy, who clearly wants to sell more aircraft into the Taiwanese market. “The unbeatable operating costs and superior comfort levels offered by the aircraft make it the perfect platform for EVA Air’s high quality product offering. We look forward to developing further our partnership with EVA Air to meet its requirements in both the widebody and single aisle market.”
EVA currently has 14 A330s (including Hello Kitty jet aircraft) and 15 Airbus A321s, which often operate alongside each other on routes that primarily focus on its regional operations.
And Peach picks up three more A320s
Rounding out the orders, Japanese ANA-owned LCC Peach has signed a firm order for three more A320s, which is its first direct order from Airbus. The airline currently operates 14 leased A320s, and three more leased aircraft will arrive soon.
The aircraft will operate across Peach’s domestic and regional East Asian network, and will seat 180 passengers.
Wizz-Bang MoU Ends the Airbus Show with 200-Aircraft Order
As Airbus rolled into its wrapup press conference, comms head Stefan Schaffrath exclaimed “Well, what a night! Full of negotiations.” Hungarian LCC Wizz Air made the biggest commitment of the air show, with a memorandum of understanding covering 200 Airbus A321neo aircraft, agreed to overnight and to be delivered from 2019 to 2024. Ninety of the aircraft in the MoU are for purchase rights, while 110 are intended to be converted for full orders.
Knee-crunching 236-239 seater versions of these aircraft are, Wizz AIr CEO Joszef Varadi says, “clearly the leading single-aisle aircraft and the best platform regarding operating economics to support our ambitious growth plans.”
“I don’t like these airshows…whenever I come, I buy something,” joked Varadi. “Two hundred stretched widebody aircraft — now that’s an impulse buy.”