Rafael Alonso
President
Airbus Latin America and the Caribbean
/
View from the Top

Airbus Sees A380 As Indispensable

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 14:43

Q: What is Mexico’s role in Airbus’ global strategy?

A: Mexico is our second most important market in Latin America after Brazil and we have had a leading presence here for almost 30 years. This can be seen in the approximately 120 aircraft managed by our four clients in Mexico, which are AeroUnion, Interjet, Volaris and VivaAerobus. With these airlines, we hold 62 percent of the market for commercial aircraft and 61 percent of orders for this market.

To showcase Mexico’s importance regionally and globally, in September we inaugurated the first Airbus Training Center in Latin America. Also in September, Volaris became the first airline in North America to receive the Airbus A320neo, the newest and most efficient model of the A320 family, which holds the honor of being the most popular in the history of aviation. At the beginning of 2016, Air France brought the A380, the largest aircraft in the world, to Mexico, making Mexico City the only one in Latin America to receive this aircraft.

Q: What are your projections for the Mexican market?

A: We forecast significant growth for Mexico and for Latin America. According to our global market forecast, Mexico will need 600 aircraft over the next 20 years and, just as we are dominating the market now, we are certain that most of these will be Airbus planes. The growing demand for singleaisle airplanes in the country will help airlines to continue growing, alongside the fact that the air travel per capita rate is expected to double in 20 years. Mexico’s economic growth also is higher than Latin America’s average, which brings interesting opportunities for Mexican companies to expand their fleet and routes, especially internationally.

Q: How are Mexican low-cost carriers (LCC) Interjet, VivaAerobus and Volaris shaping the aviation sector?

A: LCCs have grown significantly in Mexico over the past 10 years and the model is expanding to service more of Latin America. In Mexico, LCCs have grown from 11 percent of the market in 2002 to 60 percent in 2015. One of the reasons for this was Mexicana’s bankruptcy. When this airline left the market, Interjet, VivaAerobus and Volaris quickly captured it.

LCCs have changed regional transportation by making air travel more affordable, especially when passengers require an immediate trip. Part of their business model is to move long-distance bus passengers toward LCCs and Mexico is leading this trend. By increasing the number of flights LCC model but it is now developing in other significant markets such as Chile and Colombia.

Q: What characteristics attracted unprecedented demand for the A320neo?

A: A320neo offers several advantages including 15 percent reduction per seat in fuel use in comparison to the previous generation, the A320ceo. This is thanks to the incorporation of many innovative measures such as nextgeneration engines and the use of Sharklets on the wings. These savings will continue to increase and are expected to reach 20 percent by 2020.

Another reason for the popularity of this aircraft is its adaptability to airlines’ preferences. Because it comes in three different sizes, from 140 to 240 seats, airlines can choose configurations that most adapt to their needs. Due to these advantages the Airbus A320neo has captured 30 percent of single-aisle aircraft orders globally, representing almost 4,800 orders for 87 clients since its launch in 2010. Some of the first customers for this aircraft include Lufthansa, LATAM and Volaris. We are setting our sights on Latin America for this aircraft and during September and October, Avianca Brasil, Azul, Frontier, Spirit, Volaris and VivaAerobus have started to receive them.

Q: In light of the growth of single-aisle aircraft in Latin America, how much potential does a large aircraft like the A380 have in the region?

A: While Latin America is a key player for the single-aisle market, with over 400 aircraft currently operating, the region urgently needs to develop longer routes. Nowadays, airlines from Europe and the US hold most of the long-distance market in Latin America with 83 and 75 percent, respectively. By 2034, air traffic flows between South America and Western Europe are expected to become the strongest worldwide alongside those connecting South America and the US. For these routes we are seeing airlines use larger and more efficient aircraft with a longer range, such as the A350 XWB and the A380. These aircraft only began operating in the region in 2016 so there is room for growth. Taking into account that the aviation market doubles every 15 years, this large increase in passenger volume makes us certain the A380 will become indispensable in the future.

We expect Mexico to need nine A380 within the next 20 years due to the large passenger growth in the airports of Mexico City and Cancun. These two airports are expected to carry over 10,000 people a day in 20 years, thus large aircraft would be an ideal solution to avoid saturation. We are certain the A380 will contribute to the growth of Mexico’s air market. This January, AICM became the 50th airport in the world and the first in Latin America to offer commercial flights with the A380, thanks to Air France, which offers one daily flight to Paris.

Q: What specific advantages will the A380 bring potential users?

A: The A380 generates a significant amount of benefits besides being the largest aircraft in the world. First of all, it has the lowest fuel consumption per seat in comparison to all other aircraft in the market. For instance, with 544 seats in a four-class configuration, the A380 uses 30 percent less fuel per seat than the Boeing 747-800. Furthermore, the A380 is the most silent aircraft, producing 50 percent less noise than the Boeing 747-800, benefiting communities close to airports.

Q: Airbus expects the Mexican fleet to double by 2034. Which aircraft will be most in demand by then?

A: The A320neo has had enormous success in the region with almost 500 orders and commitments with seven clients, representing almost 70 percent of orders for singleaisle aircraft in the region. Nonetheless, Mexican airlines have little presence on routes between Mexico and the US, with only 30 percent of the market. Single-aisle aircraft can help Mexican airlines, especially LCCs, improve their position and capitalize on routes between the two countries.

Q: Which would you identify as Airbus’ most innovative products in the last few years?

A: The A350 XWB is now the most modern aircraft in the world. Its fuselage and wings are made of lighter aerodynamic materials and the aircraft incorporates new engines that use less fuel. This state of the art technology translates into unsurpassable efficiency, 25 percent less fuel use, 25 percent lower emissions and lower maintenance costs. The first A350 XWB in Latin America was delivered to LATAM Airlines in 2015. These models can help airlines capture the long-range market.

Another of Airbus’ latest initiatives is 3-D printing. We started using this technique for the manufacture of aluminum pieces for an A350 XWB in 2014. This technique to manufacture metallic parts allowed us to improve production processes and reduce waste. In June 2016 we tested a 3-D printed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) named Testing High-tech Objectives in Reality (THOR).

We are also working on creating virtual reality. Through our Airbus Innovation Center in Hamburg we have incorporated videogame and cinema technology into our own systems to transform cabins' interior design, providing virtual reality environments using 3-D glasses. This technology helps engineers design parts and can be used for quality checks.

Q: How do you expect BASA to influence the aviation market in both countries?

A: The US represents two-thirds of international travel to Mexico because Mexican airlines have a weak presence in this market. In that sense, BASA can help Mexican airlines better position themselves. Greater passenger flow between both countries will boost Mexico’s economy, strengthening tourism and manufacturing. We support any initiative that promotes Mexico’s economy and the aeronautics industry.