Based on the opinion-article that aerospace consultant Richard Aboulafia has published in Aviation Week, Airbus faces 3 particular challenges:
First, it must decide how best to compete with Boeing’s 787-8/9 for long, thin international routes. For years, Airbus has relied on its A350-800 to compete in this class, but over the past year, the orderbook for this variant has fallen by about half. Given the weakness of the A350-800 orderbook, Airbus may be facing a simple choice: Reengine the A330 despite the costs, or lose the 220-300-seat segment to Boeing.
Airbus’s 2nd challenge is decide whether or not to rescue the A380. Airbus must decide whether it needs an “A380neo” to keep Emirates satisfied or should focus on expanding the A380 customer base beyond the current level.
Airbus’s 3rd—and certainly largest—product-line challenge is to develop a response to Boeing’s 777-9X. With the A350-1000 limited to 350 seats, it’s clear that Boeing’s 407-seat 777-9X will be the largest and most capable twinjet on the market. While a further stretch of the A350 fuselage is possible, it would need a new engine as well as wing and tail modifications. Even then, a notional “A350-1100” is not likely to match the 777-9X’s capabilities. An all-new big twin would be optimal, but quite expensive.
All of these challenges are emerging at a difficult moment in Airbus’s history. On the positive side, it is being reformed under CEO Tom Enders into more of a private-sector company, moving away from government ownership and influence.
Given the requirements of funding the A350 and A320neo, Airbus isn’t likely to have the resources to fund both an A330neo and A380neo and a new large twin, too.
When these factors are taken into account, the market picture for the next decade or so becomes clear. Airbus may have a slight advantage in single aisles, but Boeing’s twin-aisle product line superiority implies a 55% market share by value across the board, assuming it can execute as planned on the 777X and 787-10. The odds are heavily against Airbus’s finding the resources to compete in the 360-450-seat twinjet segment for the next 10 years.
In short, Airbus will be paying the price for the A380 for many years to come.
Based on the article “Airbus Twin-Aisles—Big Needs, Limited Means” by Richard Aboulafiapublished in Aviation Week.