Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at the Teal Group, believes current narrowbody production rates are sustainable today, "but going up further can be a real problem. You can go up to 50 or 60 [aircraft per month], but if the slightest thing happens you are in real trouble." He cautions that "the idea to go up further is a great way to engineer overcapacity."
Both Airbus and Boeing have already decided to move production rates up for the narrowbody models—Airbus is boosting the A320 line to 46 aircraft per month from 42, and Boeing is moving 737 production to 47 per month from 38 and is pondering 52. Airbus is also looking at rates higher than 50 when the transition to the A320neo is completed.
Aboulafia also is concerned that some emerging players such as Lion Air or Norwegian may not fulfill their promises. Both airlines have large orders for new narrowbodies with Airbus and Boeing. From a macroeconomic point of view, this is worrisome, he says.
To an extent, the situation for manufacturers is as good as it is because of low interest rates (which encourage investment) and the high cost of fuel. These factors can change, and if Airbus and Boeing are unlucky, fuel will become cheaper and interest rates will rise in parallel. Therefore: "We are taking it too far," Aboulafia contends.