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Airbus A320neo Pratt Engine Issues to Ground 650 Planes Next Year

Edward Russell
September 12th, 2023 at 2:27 PM EDT

Pratt & Whitney Engine A320neo

The quality issues affecting Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan engines on Airbus A320neo-family aircraft will ground 600 to 650 aircraft globally next year, the latest setback to the airline industry’s recovery and growth from the pandemic.

Executives at RTX, which owns P&W, said Monday that an average of 350 A320neo-family planes will be grounded as geared turbofan engine inspections and repairs occur. The number is expected to peak at 600-650 aircraft in the first half of 2024, or about half of the global fleet of the 1,360 geared turbofan-equipped A320neos, Cirium fleet data shows.

To put it in perspective, the largest airline in the world, American Airlines, only has 925 mainline planes.

“We don’t like the situation but think it’s the right thing to do,” Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Aerospace Summit in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. He added that there will be “a lot of consequences on the [airline] industry.”

RTX first unveiled the production quality issues in geared turbofan engines in July. At the time, it said roughly 1,200 engines needed to be inspected within 12 months. The company has since determined that the quality issues affect some 3,000 engines with an estimated 600-700 likely needing repair. Aircraft will be grounded during repairs, which involves removing engines from the wings, and will take through 2026. The majority of inspections and repairs will occur next year. Repairs will take more than half a year, or 250-300 days.

“This will have significant impact on us, and any other A320neo operator,” Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr said at the U.S. Chamber summit Tuesday.

Lufthansa expects roughly 20 of its A320neos will be grounded — up from just three aircraft in July — at any given time through next year, he said. The airline will backfill that lost capacity by extending the lives of older A320ceo aircraft, as well as wet-leasing narrowbody planes from other airlines.

“There are less aircraft available in total than we were expecting,” Spohr said. “We were expecting to grow that by about double digit, and maybe it’s a little less.”

Not every airline is able to maintain its capacity outlook save a percentage point or two. European discounter Wizz Air, which operates an all-Airbus narrowbody fleet, on Monday cut its capacity growth forecast by 10 percentage points for the six months ending next March.

Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, IndiGo, and Spirit Airlines all previously said the geared turbofan engine inspections would affect them this year and next. They have not provided new guidance following RTX’s update.

At the U.S. Chamber summit, JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes declined to comment on the impact of the latest geared turbofan engine update.

Fitch Ratings on Tuesday described the situation as “material” for Spirit, which operated 80 A320neo-family aircraft at the end of June, in the September quarter. The rating agency expects the issues for Spirit to continue into 2024.

Edward Russell
September 12th, 2023 at 2:27 PM EDT

Tags: Asia-Pacific, Europe, North America

Photo credit: A Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan engine on a Lufthansa Airbus A320neo. Lufthansa

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