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Airbus May Shift More Production To A321s

Airbus may shift more of its narrow-body airliner production toward the A321, sales chief John Leahy said, as the model outsells Boeing's rival aircraft.

The 185-seat A321neo has been winning more orders than the 178-seat Boeing MAX 9, putting pressure on the US plane maker which is considering building a new plane to compete with the A321.

The A321 and its A321neo successor make up 34 percent of Airbus's narrow-body order backlog, but the plane maker's production plans already call for 50 percent of the total to be in that size as airlines and leasing companies upgrade models to handle rising traffic.

Leahy said that proportion could increase even further.

"If you look at what is being produced now it is approaching 50 percent on A321," Leahy told Reuters news agency on the sidelines of the Istat Americas air finance conference.

"I have already gone back… and said we need the capability of going to 60 percent," he added.

Aircraft manufacturers typically more profit on the larger models within a specific category.

Leasing companies, which make up about half of airliner orders, frequently select smaller models and retain the flexibility to switch to larger ones before delivery.

Randy Tinseth, Boeing's vice president of marketing, told Istat Americas conference that the heart of narrow-body jet demand remained in the slightly smaller 737 MAX 8 or A320 size.

The comments by the company executives reflect a duel over strategy in the market for narrow-body jets, which they estimate to be worth USD$2 trillion over 20 years.

Both plane makers defended their plans to increase production of the medium-haul jets despite worldwide economic jitters, saying they were supported by solid demand for air transport.