Is the age of Airbus upon us?
Congratulations to Airbus are in order, it seems.
The day before we went to press on the August issue, American Airlines confirmed a historic order with Boeing and Airbus. The inclusion of Airbus in the announcement is noticeable because it marks the first time in decades American has ordered planes from the European manufacturer.
American’s order total is staggering and record-breaking. It will take 260 A320-Family planes starting next year. But to be equitable, it’s also ordering 200 planes from Boeing
(by coincidence, 200 is the previous single-order record; AirAsia placed a 200-plane order with Airbus in late June). American also has the option to order an additional 465 aircraft from both manufacturers through 2025.
The deal has received worldwide attention. The New York Times called the orders “a coup” for Airbus, while Boeing’s hometown news outlet, the former Seattle Post-Intelligencer, ran with the headline “American Airlines buys Airbus, stings Boeing.” The Seattle writer went on to observe that Boeing had a monopoly with American and that even with the carrier chosing to take more than a few Boeing planes as well, the order is still an overall blow to Boeing.
No doubt there are some hard feelings. Airbus CEO Tom Enders, however, chose not to brag, releasing a statement that said “the order by American represents a strong endorsement” of the A320 planes; he could have easily rubbed the order in Boeing’s face. It seems that everyone is being very diplomatic about the deal.
American’s order comes after what Airbus saw as a clear victory over Boeing during the Paris Air Show in June. The European manufacturer announced orders for 730 aircraft — 667 of which were for the neo line — totaling $72.2 billion during the show. Boeing said it secured 129 orders.
Of course, the Boeing v. Airbus fight is nothing new. For a recent example, just look at the volley of PR spin issued by both companies when the European Union found that Boeing received illegal government subsidies, or when the U.S. government concluded the same thing about Airbus.
But whatever either manufacturer says, it’s obvious carriers with long-term allegiances to Boeing are starting to look at Airbus. But why? Are airlines more impressed with Airbus’ energy-efficient aircraft? Is there some other reason?
But maybe this all isn’t a big deal. Perhaps the significance of American Airlines picking up a couple of hundred Airbus planes is being blown way out of proportion. But with rumblings about other carriers — Southwest, perhaps? — following American’s Airbus lead circulating, Boeing is officially on notice.
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— Jon Ross is the editor of Air Cargo World.