Airbus appears confident it has nothing to fear from Boeing’s plans to develop a new midsize airplane (NMA), insisting it already offers the most flexible and economical solution on the market. “We have a very successful re-engined A320/A321, a narrowbody with amazing economics and a widebody range, and the A330 program is now re-engined as well,” said Airbus chief commercial officer Christian Scherer during Tuesday’s pre-Paris Air Show briefings in Toulouse. “So we have a left-hook, right-hook approach to the NMA.”
The maturity of both programs gives Airbus the pricing flexibility to address the competitive segment of the market the NMA would occupy, he emphasized. In contrast, developing a clean-sheet airliner costs billions of dollars, he said, while questioning what value—in terms of new technology that reduces an airline’s fuel, labor, and capital investment costs—Boeing’s prospective NMA would bring to the market.
Scherer’s comments reflect statements made by Airbus’s new CEO, Guillaume Faury, during a first-quarter earnings presentation with analysts on April 30. “We are moving forward with what we think is appropriate for the A320/A321 product, trying to anticipate and answer the customers’ expectations and the market needs,” he said. “We have as well the A330neo, with the -8 in its certification phase and -9 on the market. We think that on the Airbus side we have the right product to address the middle of the market. I do not see changes on that.” Airbus plans to release details of further versions of the A321LR later this year, possibly at June’s Paris Air Show. Scherer, meanwhile, remained quiet about the enhancements.
Boeing started talking about a potential replacement for its 757 in 2012. The new model, a midsize airliner carrying 220 to 270 seats and a range of 5,000 nm, would enter service in the middle of the next decade. Pundits widely expected the U.S. OEM to announce authority to offer the NMA for sale during the Paris Air Show next month, but the 737 Max crisis could delay the timeline.
Airbus executives declined to comment on the Max debacle, and Scherer forcefully rejected as “bottom-line insulting” suggestions that Airbus has lobbied EASA to make the recertification of the model more difficult. It is up to the regulators to introduce the right checks and balances, he said, while conceding he believes a disequilibrium exists in the current mandate of the FAA—supporting the industry and safeguarding safety. The EASA mandate focuses solely on safety oversight. “I am not suggesting here that there is something wrong with the FAA,” he added, however. “We are working very well with them.”
While recognizing that the trade tensions between the U.S. and China could potentially affect Airbus, the European airframer remained optimistic about the overall long-term outlook of the market and its own internal target to deliver 880 to 890 aircraft this year. Scherer described the global aircraft market as “quite positive” as the trend of deregulation and airline competitiveness increases, and less cyclical as in the past. “Globally, we’re still in a very healthy situation,” he said, with many regions showing strong economic growth and thus growth in air travel.