(Adds quotes, background, Zodiac comment)
TOULOUSE, France, June 28 (Reuters) - An Airbus executive said on Tuesday that France’s Zodiac Aerospace has not yet fully overcome problems with supplies of cabin equipment, but Airbus was in a good position to meet a target for A350 jet deliveries.
Deliveries of the new wide-body jet have been held up by delays or quality problems in the supply of cabin equipment, including seats and lavatories from Zodiac Aerospace: a situation recently criticised by the president of Airbus.
“For the cabin, we are back to a very few suppliers who are critical and Zodiac is probably the most critical one. Zodiac has not recovered yet,” Airbus Group Chief Procurement Officer Klaus Richter told Reuters.
Asked whether he was most concerned about delays or quality problems, he said, “I would say it is mainly delays, but it is actually both.”
A Zodiac spokeswoman reiterated comments made earlier this month, when the French company cited progress at a California plant that makes business-class seat backs but noted quality issues at an aircraft toilet production site in the same state.
After posting a series of profit warnings, the French supplier of seats, cabin systems and other aircraft parts recently reaffirmed forecasts for the current financial year, which foresee operating income or core profit close to that of 2014/15.
“The focus is on the A350 ... and on the US operations of Zodiac,” Richter said, adding the supplier’s California base is “too far away, and they don’t get it under control”.
These are not the only factors holding up delays of Airbus’s newest long-haul jet, but Richter said the planemaker expected to meet its target of at least 50 deliveries in 2016.
It has so far delivered 10 of the jets and plans to deliver an 11th aircraft to Ethiopian Airlines later on Wednesday.
“There are certainly in the context of the A350 a few technical challenges connected to component and materials technology,” Richter said, without elaborating.
“It is part of the normal learning curve and ... if everything goes right, we will arrive at 50 aircraft this year,” he said in an interview coinciding with the opening of a new headquarters complex for Airbus Group in Toulouse, France.
He said there were more than 40 aircraft in the final assembly line, adding, “now it is about execution”. (Reporting by Tim Hepher,; Editing by Mathieu Rosemain and Alexandra Hudson)