| PARIS, June 13
PARIS, June 13 Europe's Airbus plans to increase
the seating capacity on its most popular single-aisle jet, the
medium-haul A320 models, stepping up competition with U.S. rival
Boeing in the largest slice of the global jet market.
The more densely arranged cabins will be available early
next year after European authorities agreed to allow Airbus to
use bigger evacuation slides, which are one of the parameters
for deciding how many people an aircraft is authorised to carry.
The move comes as Airbus advances towards first flight of an
upgraded version of its A320 jets equipped with new engines, due
to enter service in the fourth quarter of 2015.
Klaus Roewe, senior vice president of the aircraft project,
said the revamped A320neo would "comfortably beat" a target of
reducing overall fuel consumption by 15 percent, compared with
the existing A320 model.
More seats also mean lower operating costs per seat - the
key driver of aircraft economics.
The changes will allow Airbus to increase the certified
maximum number of seats for its A320 model to 189 seats from 180
seats, starting with the existing version in early 2015.
The capacity of the A321 will increase to 240 seats from 220
seats, delivering fuel savings of 6 percent per seat due also
to other improvements in the cabin layout, Roewe said.
Airbus competes with U.S. rival Boeing for sales of
such single-aisle jets estimated at $2 trillion over 20 years,
making up the largest segment of the civil aerospace industry.
Experts say each seat on a single-aisle aircraft like the
A320 or Boeing 737 is worth some $1 million to an airline over
its lifespan - twice that for larger wide-body jets - so
fine-tuning the operating costs per seat is crucial to winning
Boeing said adding seats to the A320neo would merely close a
gap in capacity with the revamped 737 MAX 8, its
189-seat-capacity answer to the A320neo, but that it may
leapfrog its European rival by raising the number of seats
"We can accommodate adding more seats to the MAX 8 and are
gauging market interest," Keith Leverkuhn, vice president and
general manager of the 737 MAX project, said in an emailed
The Wall Street Journal reported that Boeing might lift the
seat count as far as 199 people, the maximum allowed before
incurring the cost of an extra flight attendant. Airlines must
provide one flight attendant for every 50 passengers.
Boeing declined to comment.
The development of revamped jets promising about 15 percent
fuel savings has led to record production rates and pushed up
shares of both manufacturers, but provoked a struggle for market
share as Boeing tries to compensate for its rival's head start.
A less visible but potentially decisive struggle between the
two leading planemakers is opening up over the way in which the
planes on order will be produced. Eliminating costly mistakes
can help profit margins but also market share, as new orders in
this category are won or lost on small differences in price.
Roewe said Airbus had applied over 2,000 lessons from the
A350 and A380 projects to try to eliminate glitches that affect
any new aircraft, bringing the aerospace industry closer towards
quality control techniques pioneered by the car industry.
(Additional reporting by Cyril Altmeyer; Editing by Sophie