Single-Aisle Aircraft Scarcity Pushes Airline To Widebodies?

By Spyros Georgilidakis | June 9, 2024

The inability to get enough single-aisle aircraft on time is causing the Saudia Group to look for widebodies, to fulfill the same role.

We have seen how stagnant orders and early aircraft retirements during the pandemic, later led to a rapid increase in new aircraft orders. The effect was particularly strong because both Boeing and Airbus introduced new single-aisle aircraft in the years leading up to 2020, driving fleet replacements.

Single-Aisle Aircraft Scarcity Pushes Airline To Widebodies?
The Saudia Group recently ordered 105 A320neo-family aircraft. Image: Airbus

This and Boeing’s continuing problems with 737 production have driven demand for Airbus’ offerings. But despite continuing efforts to streamline its assembly lines, Airbus simply can’t make jets fast enough.

In May, the Saudia Airlines Group placed an order for 105 single-aisle aircraft with Airbus. Previous reports suggested that Saudia, already an Airbus A320neo user, intended to order the 737 MAX instead.

Image: Boeing

A Hunt for Single-Aisle Aircraft (by many)

The aftermath of the MAX-9 blowout in January, and possibly other, geopolitical reasons, drove Saudia to turn to Airbus for its latest single-aisle order. But in more recent statements, the airline revealed that it actually wanted to order 180 aircraft – not 105.

Single-Aisle Aircraft Scarcity Pushes Airline To Widebodies?
Saudia already has 21 787s, -9 and -10 variants, but none of the smaller 787-8. Photo: Victor Silvis

Now, the airline is considering the purchase of widebody jets, to operate them in the same roles as the rest of its recent order. It is talking with both Boeing and Airbus, for 787s and A330s respectively.

Especially in Asia, a number of airlines operate the A330 in medium-haul routes. Other countries, including the United States, started using 787s and other widebodies for transcontinental routes, with some continuing to do so today.

Image: Boeing

The lack of new single-aisle aircraft doesn’t seem likely to improve in the near future. We have also seen how United Airlines is trying to get Airbus A321neos instead of Boeing 737 MAX-10s. Other Boeing customers are facing similar headaches because of ever-lengthening delays.

On the other hand, Airbus doesn’t want to find itself with an over-capacity of single-aisle aircraft production – especially later in the decade. So, will we see more airlines ordering new widebodies, to fill gaps in their fleets?


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