Brussels (Brussels Morning) As Airbus, the European planemaker, moves to step up its production plans, the company’s German suppliers, though broadly backing its ambitious targets, have warned that growing labour shortages could pose a major risk to the industry’s growth prospects.
Airbus unveiled more than 400 new orders at the Dubai Airshow this week – both firm and tentative – and reportedly could tack on an additional A350 freighter order by the end of this week. The company said it aims to raise production of its popular A320 jets by around 50%, to turn out 65 jets each month by the summer of 2023, with plans to try and reach an output of up to 75 planes per month.
The pan-European company is a major client for more than 200 suppliers in Germany, which have welcomed the more ambitious production plans. “It is a good signal”, Volker Thum, head of the German aerospace association BDLI, said. “We are not yet back to the good old times but it is starting back again. We are still in the critical phase, there is no doubt about that, but the perspectives are there.”
Thum told Reuters that only “a handful” of German suppliers have lingering doubts about the production increase. The planned target of 65 A320-family jets per month is only slightly above the company’s pre-pandemic output of about 60 per month.
Airbus is also investigating the option of upping production further, and has asked its suppliers to examine the possibility of producing up to 70 in early 2024, and up to 75 by 2025, though the company has not yet reached a final decision.
“The main concern is to get skilled people on board, especially due to the demographic effect of baby-boomers retiring”, Thum noted. A number of suppliers are also concerned whether the increase would be short-lived, fearing they would be left saddled with expensive machinery that sits unused once the orders go down again.