TOULOUSE, France (AP) — After a record year for sales, plane maker Airbus aims to keep business going by focusing on more legroom.
Ambitions in the aviation industry for supersonic or stratospheric flight have taken a back seat to more mundane market demands at the European manufacturer.
For good reason: Business is booming, and 2013 was a record year in many ways. Airbus said Monday that it received a record 1,619 orders, and delivered a company-best 626 planes — right behind the 648 delivered by U.S. archrival Boeing & Co.
Airbus’ order backlog — jets to be delivered in coming years — sits at a record 5,559, or nearly nine years of work, at current output levels. That figure eclipsed Boeing, whose unfulfilled order book stood at 5,080 — a record for the Chicago-based company as well. Airbus, based in Toulouse, France, is pumping out 42 single-aisle A320s each month, billed as the highest rate ever for a commercial aircraft.
Single-aisle aircraft, which are easier to contour to the demands of airline customers than are wide-body jets, make up the bulk of orders these days. The backlog for A320s sits at nearly 4,300 planes, making it the best-selling aircraft in history, Airbus said.
But Airbus said its superjumbo, the A380, is also answering a key demand for air travelers: More space and wider seats for long-haul flights.
When it comes to seat size, an inch can matter a lot, said John Leahy, commercial director for Airbus, and the company is pushing 18-inch seats on the A380.
“Study after study shows that at 18-inch, you can have the ability to move around in the seat. At 17 inches, if you fit in the seat, you aren’t going to move,” he said.
It’s also increasing the size of the aisles, so passengers can move around more easily and stretch their legs.