Airbus is building a new support strategy where customers pay for a significant portion of purchased services with data collected during operations. In a press briefing last December at the aircraft manufacturer's headquarters in Toulouse, France, executives from Airbus's customer services team explained that rather than becoming a standalone business unit, integrated customer support can help make Airbus airplanes more attractive. In addition, they outlined plans to create a network of MRO (maintenance, repair, and overhaul) providers, and gave an extensive description of Airbus "e-solutions" for maintenance.
Patrick Gavin, executive vice-president for customer services, sees the emergence of low-cost carriers as one of the structural changes in the air transport industry that are influencing his business. "Low-cost carriers, with their single-type operations, push for standardization," Gavin explained. This implies that Airbus has to look carefully at the existing differences between older and current airplane models. Although improvements are available, some changes are costly for an airline that operates dozens of aircraft of the same type but of different ages. "We analyze what the differences are and whether they are disruptive, we then try to improve the situation," Gavin said. This push for standardization now also comes from major airlines.
Most airlines are outsourcing more maintenance and engineering tasks. Many have passed the non-return point, Gavin added, but airlines are still seeking the right balance. Paradoxically, Airbus support people are concerned that engineering tasks are being transferred to aircraft manufacturers. "Diminishing engineering resources at the airlines will impact dispatch reliability," Gavin said.
Another structural change is the growing number of small, very specific carriers, such as cargo haulers, VIP airlines, etc. "A small carrier is not a small customer;...