Orders for Boeing’s new 737 Max closing in on Airbus’s A320neo, says US manufacturer
Boeing has stepped up the pressure on Airbus in the battle for control of the short-haul aircraft market after claiming that it is on track to draw neck-and-neck with its arch-rival.
Airbus has stolen a march on its competitor with the launch of the A320neo, an upgrade of the plane that is used by scores of airlines including easyJet. It has received 1,289 firm orders so far but Boeing has hit back with the 737 Max, which follows the strategy of the neo in revamping a tried-and-trusted model.
Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing at Boeing’s commercial unit, said the company is focusing on achieving “parity” with the fuel-efficient neo, having received 597 firm orders, from carriers including American Airlines and Dallas-based Southwest, the airline credited with inventing low-cost flying.
“We are on the right trajectory to catch them,” said Tinseth. “And that’s where we want to be.”
Despite the ongoing Airbus duel, Boeing expects a major emerging market manufacturer to break the two-handed stranglehold on the large passenger aircraft market. The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China [Comac] is the front-runner to launch a rival to the 737 and A320, with Ryanair agreeing a deal to assist the Chinese company in designing a 200-seater competitor. “We think the duopoly between Airbus and Boeing will be over,” said Tinseth. “But the question is, will they be successful? We think those guys will be later rather than sooner but the market will tell. We have to make our plans assuming that they will be successful.”
A spokesperson for Ryanair, which operates 737 aircraft, said the airline was discussing a new order with Boeing but was not in serious talks with any manufacturer and could still plump for Comac. “We believe it will be a realistic alternative should we want to make a large order in a number of years’ time.”
Russia’s challenge as an emerging contender was dealt a blow this month when a Sukhoi Superjet crashed on a promotional flight in Indonesia, killing all 45 people on board. The new 90-seater plane, aimed at regional airlines such as the UK’s Flybe, had been launched as a challenger to products sold by Canada’s Bombardier and Brazil’s Embraer.