Lufthansa to take delivery of first Airbus A320neo jet
Germany’s Lufthansa is set to become the first airline to fly Airbus’s revamped single-aisle A320neo jet, the airline said on Thursday, replacing Qatar Airways which has expressed concerns over the technical performance of its engines.
The A320neo, seen as a key profit driver for both the European planemaker and its engine suppliers in coming years, is being readied for delivery after winning US and European safety certification in late November.
Until now, Qatar Airways has been named as the launch customer for the fuel-efficient jet, with Airbus targeting first delivery to the Gulf airline by the end of December.
But the CEO of Qatar Airways raised the possibility of a delay in the delivery of its first airplane at a news conference on Wednesday, saying any delay would be the fault of engine maker Pratt & Whitney, not Airbus.
Confirming a news report, Lufthansa said it now expected to take delivery of the first A320neo this month.
“We expect to get our first A320neo in December and that would technically make us the launch operator,” a spokesman said.
Aviation Week, which first reported the switch, said Qatar Airways had refused to take the jet as planned because of potentially costly operational restrictions on the Pratt & Whitney engines.
Airbus said it would to stick to its schedule of making the first A320neo delivery this year, but declined to say which airline would receive it. As recently as Nov. 24, it had said Qatar Airways was on course to receive the first jet.
The A320neo offers 15-percent lower fuel consumption thanks mainly to a choice of next-generation engines from Pratt & Whitney or CFM International, a joint venture of General Electric and France’s Safran.
Pratt & Whitney’s Geared Turbofan engine, which is the first to come to market, marks a break with recent jet engine architecture but had some teething problems during testing.
“Along with Airbus, we are continuing to work with early customers on the first delivery of the aircraft. The team is on track to deliver the first A320neo this year,” a spokeswoman for Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies, said on Wednesday.