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IndiGo orders 300 new Airbus A320 Neos. Why?

Publication: 
Editorial Staff
chiefofficersnet

It was announced yesterday that IndiGo, a large budget carrier in India is expanding its fleet with an additional 300 Airbus A320 Neos with a headline price of USD33,000 million. IndiGo has, unlike several of its competitors, not gone out of business. But it is under the cosh precisely because it flies A320 Neos.

The order would be good news if only Airbus could actually deliver the planes somewhere near the planned delivery dates. This year has seen a litany of complaints from operators all over the world saying their operations are hampered by late delivery. Airbus says that, on the one hand, the delays are because of delays at Pratt & Whitney and on the other that there are problems, including design, in the supply chain for cabin fixtures and fittings.

For example:

"Kuwait Airways says delays to Airbus A320 deliveries could cause flight disruptions" - Reuters 2 April 2019. The airline tweeted that "March deliveries of new Airbus A320 jets have been delayed until June, October and November." The airline's twitter feed shows the first one ready to fly to Kuwait for delivery on 30 August.

On 15th August this year, Wizz Air said "Wizz Air, the fastest growing airline in Europe and a leading low-cost carrier in Ukraine, announces schedule adjustment to its Kyiv flights schedule due to operational reasons caused by aircraft delivery delays. Between 3 and 20 August 2019, there will be slight adjustments to the frequency of several routes." Wizz flies the A321 neo varient and by the 23rd August had received six aircraft this year.

It's not even a new problem: in July 2018, Bloomberg reported "Airbus SE will miss its delivery target for Pratt & Whitney-powered A320neo narrow-body jets this year, after problems with the engines caused an almost three-month halt in shipments" going on to say (in the mangled English Bloomberg specialises in) "Makers of plane and powerplant risk customer late penalties."

A quick internet search shows that there have been a series of problems with the P&W engine ranging from a stall to "the engine went bang." P&W say they have been working on a solution but In the past week, it was reported that The P&W 1100G-JM that powers the aircraft had a stall. That was in an IndiGo aircraft and was the final straw for "India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation in its decision to order IndiGo to replace the engines on its entire Airbus A320neo fleet." (simpleflying com) . They have less than three months to do it and have almost 100 affected planes - that's 200 engines. It is not known whether they will swap out the P&W engines in favour of the alternative LEAP-1A or whether that is even technically possible. One thing is sure: IndiGo won't want to pay for the new engines nor the work.

It's not the only problem: software on the A321 Neo variant has been discovered, in limited "very remote" circumstances, to cause a "pitch up" condition. This is not the same as that affecting Boeing 737 MAX aircraft although it sounds similar. That has resulted in a July 2019 Air Worthiness Directive issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency but it's a long way from the aircraft being grounded.

A suspicious mind makes might ask - why would they choose this moment to place an order for 300 more of the same with a value of USD33,000 million?

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