Airbus has set its sights on ultimately taking the spoils of Boeing’s 200-aircraft commitment from International Airlines Group for 737 Max jets, insisting at the Paris Air Show on Thursday that it can still win the order. Speaking during Airbus’s end-of-show press conference, company CEO Guillaume Faury and chief commercial officer Christian Scherer each stressed the IAG deal is only a letter of intent and that the order remains available to the European airframer.
“A large order like 200 planes is important in the industry,” conceded Faury. “So we would be very happy to compete when it comes to a tender for such a large number of planes, so I am sure we will have the opportunity to be in that situation a bit later...We will be looking forward to making a good proposal in that contest.”
Scherer acknowledged that he hasn’t received a request for proposal from IAG, however, and that Airbus has only “taken the position” that it would like to bid for the business.
“IAG is a very good customer,” said Scherer. “Every one of [IAG’s subsidiary] airlines are A320, A321 operators, A319 operators. So we are absolutely intent on bidding for additional IAG business.”
Of course, the announcement by IAG and Boeing had to come as a blow to Airbus given its previous position as the group’s sole narrowbody supplier. Still, Airbus could trumpet its own series of successes at the show, as by Thursday morning it had collected firm orders for 149 airplanes and commitments for another 214. It could credit much of the accomplishment to the launch of the new 4,700-nm-range A321XLR, which drew new firm orders for 48 examples, commitments for a further 79, and conversions from standard A321s involving 99 airplanes.
“We didn’t come here chasing large numbers and hundreds of individual airlines’ orders,” added Scherer. “What we came here to do is to validate our product strategy on the A321 and the middle of the market, coming from a single-aisle aspect and coming down from the widebody.”
Airbus claims that it can address with two airplanes—the A321XLR and A330neo—the sector of the market Boeing continues to evaluate for the potential launch of its so-called NMA, or new midsize airplane. During the show, it drew orders for 16 A330-900s from Cebu Pacific and eight from Virgin Atlantic, which also signed a lease deal for another six.
“We are the one occupying the space in the middle of the market, we have the A330neo, we have the [A330neo]-800 coming later into play...and with the A321XLR we are making a big move into that space with a very competitive plane, relying on an existing supply chain and production system,” said Faury. “So the need for reacting is not on our side. We are acting, or proacting, and therefore we will be observing what will be happening in the rest of the industry.”