Europe Steps Up Protest Against Washington Aid for Boeing

 - May 20, 2014, 3:00 PM
German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel (center) was among the European Union officials meeting at the ILA show in Berlin to address issues facing European airframer Airbus. He was shown the A350XWB aircraft by Airbus CEO Tom Enders (right). [Photo: Airbus]

European Union government ministers meeting at the ILA air show in Berlin on Tuesday said they will back a new European Commission (EC) complaint to the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the state of Washington’s offer of $8.7 billion in financial support for Boeing’s 777X development.

“It’s the same type of subsidy that has already been declared illegal by the WTO. We will support the EC, which is making representations,” UK trade minister Michael Fallon told a press conference. Earlier in the day, Airbus Germany COO Guenther Butscher had condemned the financial incentives Washington offered to persuade Boeing to keep production in the state as “an illegal subsidy that allows Boeing to develop the 777X at no cost while we repay every cent of our launch aid.” The ministers did not respond to a direct question as to whether they would advocate imposing sanctions against Boeing on the grounds that long-running efforts to resolve disputes over alleged subsidies through the WTO have been inconclusive.

Giving an update on the certification program for the new A350XWB widebody, Butscher told reporters that the four test aircraft have logged more than 350 flights and more than 1,600 flight hours. He said that the aircraft is on track to complete certification in the third quarter of this year and to enter service during the fourth quarter. Airbus COO customers John Leahy acknowledged that the European airframer is pushing sales of the larger A350-900 and -1000 aircraft. “If we bring out an A330neo, it will have an impact on [sales of] the A350-800,” he added, while stressing that Airbus has yet to establish that sufficient performance improvements can be achieved by re-engining the A330.

Meanwhile, Airbus is promoting the A330 Regional model with de-rated engines and a reduced maximum gross takeoff weight of 199 metric tons (438,713 pounds) that is projected to deliver the same seat mile costs as the narrowbody A321 on shorter routes that require widebody capacity.

Leahy reported that so far in 2014 Airbus has logged 236 orders from 14 customers.