Airbus plans to bring forward by six months the entry into service of its revamped A320 jetliner, seen as key to battling Boeing and fending off emerging rivals in the largest aircraft segment.
The fuel saving model of Airbus’ best selling aircraft will now be available in October 2015, Airbus said in a statement, citing “spectacular market reception” with more than 300 commitments since the A320neo was unveiled on December 1.
Cancellations for its existing A320 narrow-body aircraft weighed on its order tally for the first three months of the year, meanwhile, according to statistics published by Airbus on Wednesday, Reuters reports.
Kuwaiti low-cost carrier Jazeera Airways scrapped orders for 25 A320s last month, after Dubai Aerospace Enterprise’s DAE Capital leasing unit cancelled orders for 18 A320 jets and 12 A350-900 wide-body aircraft in February.
The 43 cancelled A320 orders were worth around $3.7 billion at list prices.
Gross orders in the first quarter reached 69, with 68 cancellations taking the net order total to just one aircraft. Airbus delivered 119 aircraft in the period, including four A380 superjumbos.
In the latest available figures, U.S. arch rival Boeing sold 135 planes between January 1 and March 29 and took 88 net orders after adjusting for cancellations.
Airbus has said it is targeting 520 to 530 commercial aircraft deliveries this year, with gross orders expected to outpace that amount.
The move to speed up the introduction of the A320neo comes as Boeing mulls whether to launch a new version of its successful 737 passenger jet.
The two aircraft compete in the largest segment of the aircraft market worth an estimated $1.7 trillion over 20 years.
The CSeries being built by Canada’s Bombardier leads a field of newcomers aiming to grab a slice of that market that also includes China’s C919.
Airbus said the upgraded model has generated strong sales of a Pratt & Whitney engine, the PW1100G turbofan, which Airbus said customers had established as the “lead development engine”.
Airbus sales chief John Leahy was quoted as saying on Tuesday the jet maker would consider putting a version of Pratt & Whitney’s latest jet engines on its A350 mid-sized plane if the U.S. engine maker proposed it.
The engine, developed by United Technologies unit Pratt & Whitney, competes with an engine developed by General Electric and Safran joint venture CFM International.
Separately, Zodiac Aerospace said on Wednesday it had won a deal to become the sole supplier of kitchen and stowage compartments for Airbus’s short-to medium range narrow-body A320 fleet.