Airbus chief says A350 delivery goal is a challenge

An Airbus logo is pictured on the company booth during the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) at Cointrin airport in Geneva, Switzerland, May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

PARIS (Reuters) - Airbus faces a challenge to meet delivery targets for the A350 jet this year due to problems with suppliers, the head of the European planemaker said in remarks published on Wednesday.

Airbus still has to deliver at least 41 of the new long-haul jets to reach a target of more than 50 for the whole year, after a slow start blamed partly on shortages of seats and lavatories.

"The target remains a challenge because some of our industrial partners are experiencing difficulties," Fabrice Bregier, president and CEO of the planemaking division of Airbus Group AIR.PA told France's La Tribune daily in an interview.

Asked whether this meant problems and delays with cabin equipment from France's Zodiac Aerospace ZODC.PA remained unresolved, Bregier said: "The situation is improving, but not enough to allow us to meet all our commitments. Improvement plans have been launched, but too late".

Zodiac said on Tuesday the operational performance of its Cabin branch continued to be affected by problems with lavatories for the Airbus A350, but that delays in seat production were coming under control.

Bregier expressed greater optimism about production of the smaller A320neo, saying glitches with Pratt & Whitney UTX.N engines were being fixed and Airbus aimed to catch up with delivery plans in the second half of the year.

“It is achievable, even if it is a stretch,” he said.

Bregier said Airbus did not yet have sufficient promises of orders to commit to a possible larger version of the A350 to compete with Boeing’s 406-seat 777-9, and that discussions of an engine revamp of the slow-selling A380 were on hold for now.

(This version of the story corrects Bregier’s first name in the third paragraph.)

Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Mark Potter