The airline industry is changing and acting like real businesses to return value for shareholders

“Our industry is changing and acting like real businesses to return value for shareholders.”

It’s a remarkable statement when you think about it. But this is how Jim Compton, vice chairman of United Airlines, led off at the World Routes conference this week in Chicago.

The US airline industry for years seemed to be operated more for market share than for profit. At least this is how many chief executive officers often characterized things until after 9/11, when US carriers wrenched through the aftermath of that horrible day. Even so, CEOs often complained there was too much capacity to allow for profitable operations. It wasn’t until after the global financial collapse of 2008 that US airlines began to consolidate, reduce flights and take capacity out of the system. Profits began to return.

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Embraer and Bombardier: the tale of different companies, histories and fortunes

Last month we did a situational analysis of Boeing and Airbus and we promised to do the same for Embraer and Bombardier. Our follow-up article took longer than planned, as we wanted to include the rather significant changes that have transpired at Bombardier in recent weeks. Material for the analysis is the first half 2014 financial and operational results of the aircraft manufacturers but also information we got when we sat down with the Marketing managers of the two companies at Farnborough, Embraer’s Claudio Carmelier and Bombardier’s Philippe Poutissou. Unfortunately, the latter is no longer in his job, having been replaced in a series of management and corporate restructurings at Bombardier.

Status first half 2014

The situation in the two companies could not be more different. Embraer is financially healthy with well-selling aircraft programs, both on the commercial aircraft side (E-jet) and the business aircraft side (Phenom, Legacy). Embraer is well positioned for the future with a well-received update to its E-jet program (E-jet E2 ) . Bombardier on the other hand, has problems. Its financial situation is strained with too many new aircraft programs eating up cash (CSeries, Learjet 85, Global 7000/8000) and their currently active programs have in some cases seen their zenith in the market (CRJ, Challenger 600 and, arguably, the Q400). Continue reading

Odds and Ends: Air France/KLM trims cargo fleet; ExIm Bank countdown; BBD v EMB; More

Air France-KLM trims cargo fleet: Steve Wilhelm of The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that Air France-KLM group is sharply trimming its cargo fleet, with the company declaring the capacity continues to shift to the belly capacity of passenger airplanes. This further validates what we have been writing for some time and, in our view, further bolsters our argument that the demand for new-build, dedicated freighters continues to fall. This in turn means Airbus won’t see recovery for the A330-200F nor will Boeing see recovery in demand for the 747-8F or 777-200LRF.

ExIm Bank Countdown: September 30 is the date the US ExIm Bank runs out of money. Although there is talk of a short-term extension of a few months (conveniently taking it past the election and perhaps defusing some of the Tea Party angst over the agency), Emirates Airlines said it will still buy Boeing airplanes even if ExIm isn’t renewed.

This can’t help Boeing’s argument that ExIm should be retained.

Left unsaid in Emirates’ statement, however, is something we heard in the market: Boeing’s deal for the 150 777Xs with Emirates nearly fell apart over the ambiguity over the Bank. We’re also told Boeing agreed to backstop the Emirates deal.

Neither Boeing nor Emirates comment on financing support.

Bombardier vs Embraer: Here is an interesting thought piece on the financial returns of Bombardier vs Embraer. One obvious error in the article: Malmo Aviation didn’t cancel its order for the CS100; it just decided not to be the launch operator.

Neither do you: Flight Global writes this about the end of plans between COMAC and Bombardier to have a common cockpit between the C919 and the CSeries:

“Basically in the development of the C919, Bombardier is not involved,” says [CAAC}. “They have experience in building regional jets, but not so much in narrowbodies.”

We can’t help but think the Chinese learned what they wanted to learn and moved on.

787 safety: This is one of those stories for which we have skepticism but which is already getting enough press that we don’t feel we can ignore it. Al Jazeera America has a special Wednesday night about the safety of the Boeing 787. AJM previously did an investigation of the safety of the Boeing 737. The Seattle Times has an early review. We’ll hold our opinion until after watching the program.

Ryanair finally orders 737 MAX: Once Boeing announced the launch of the 200-seat 737-8 MAX at the Farnborough Air Show, an order from Ireland’s Ryanair was only a matter of time. It became official today: Ryanair ordered 100+100 of the new version, the 737 MAX 200.

 

Airlines, not passengers, at fault for recline wars

A third incident of “recline wars” has been reported, this time on a Delta Air Lines flight in which a dispute broke out between a passenger who reclined his seat and the passenger behind him who didn’t like it.

The New York Times has an article on the entire issue.

While the focus and debate has, so far, centered around who has rights–the passenger to recline or the passenger claiming reclining violates his space–the real issue, and blame, ought to rest with the airlines squeezing down legroom to a seat pitch of 28 inches (in the case of Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air) to an increasingly common 30 inches on legacy carriers.

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Focus on Bombardier after more executive changes

This report has been updated since it was issued to our E-subscribers last Monday to reflect our new estimate of the return to airborne status for the flight test program.

Bombardier two weeks ago made more executive changes to the CSeries program, replacing the vice president of marketing and other officials. The company said additional changes might be forthcoming—a clear signal that something more is afoot.

Bombardier has been stuck on 203 firm orders for the CSeries for the better part of this year, although the number of orders and commitments has swelled to 513 with a much better than expected Farnborough Air Show. Still, MOUs and LOIs aren’t firm orders with deposits and progress payments, and poor sales of the CRJ, Q400 and business jet divisions combine with the R&D costs of the CSeries to put a huge financial squeeze on the company. Layoffs and cost cutting, along with the management changes, add to the perception that BBD is a company in trouble.

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Odds and Ends: Order bubble, revisited; MRJ lands JAL; MH370

What order bubble, Revisited: We recently asked the question, What order bubble?

The orders don’t stop coming. Boeing landed a big fish with a large order from BOC Aviation, bringing net orders to 918–easily on the path to 1,000. Airbus lags at just over 800 net orders through July (it only reports monthly, not weekly as does Boeing), but we see Airbus hitting 1,000 this year, too. There were 121 MOUs announced at the Farnborough Air Show for the A330neo and we expect most of these to firm up, if not all. (There will likely be some swaps by Air Asia from the A330ceo to the neo, however.) We expect more A320 orders as well.

Boeing’s BOCA order was the lessor’s largest ever and included two 777-300ERs. Boeing is attempting to combine -300ER orders with 737 and 777X deals in order to bridge the production gap between the 777 Classic and the 777X.

GE Aviation and GE Engines naturally benefited from the 737 and 777 BOCA deal, since they are the sole-source engine providers on the airplanes.

MRJ lands JAL: Japan Air Lines ordered 32 Mitsubishi MRJ90s for delivery from 2021. This is the fourth customer for MRJ. JAL’s rival, All Nippon Airways, was the launch customer for the MRJ90. JAL also ordered up to 27 Embraer E-Jets.

MH370: New information emerged this week on the flight path of Malaysian Airlines MH370, which disappeared on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and is believed to have crashed in the south Indian Ocean.

We’ve been asked by local media if MAS can survive. We believe it can, given the government backing. It’s the flag carrier and we don’t think Malaysia will allow the airline to go out of business. Korean Air Lines survived following a series of crashes and the Soviet shootdown of KAL 007 during the 1980s. MAS may become a very different airline, but we think it will continue.

After-market support becoming key to winning engine orders

Maintenance and power-by-the-hour parts and support contracts are increasingly becoming the deciding factor in deciding which engines and which airplanes will be ordered—it’s no longer a matter of engine price or even operating costs, customers of Airbus and Boeing tell us.

Ten years ago, 30% of engine selection had power-by-the-hour (PBH) contracts attached to them. Today, 70% are connected, says one lessor that has Airbus and Boeing aircraft in its portfolio, and which has ordered new aircraft from each company.

“We’ve seen a huge move in maintenance contracts,” this lessor says.

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Half time 2014 for Boeing and Airbus

The major OEM’s have published their half time 2014 results and we can make an analysis of their half year results together with orders / deliveries and the state of their product lines. We compare Boeing and Airbus on the high end and in a follow up article Embraer and Bombardier on the low end. To make orders and deliveries comparable we include the month of July as the OEMs collected business to be announced at Farnborough mid July.

Boeing had a strong first half 2014. Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA) business is now past the initial problems on the 787 program and delivered 48 units January to June 2014 (8 per month) which is the same numbers as for the 777 program. The 737 is now at rate 40 per month with a first half total of 239 deliveries. The 747-8 is at rate 1 with only 6 deliveries and the 767 has stopped as a commercial program with only 1 delivery during the first half year. The commercial deliveries of 342 aircraft drove a 4% increase in company overall revenue and a 5% increase in earnings compared to first half 2013 (both non-GAAP i.e. the core business performance), this despite a Defense, Space and Security side which was down 5% on revenue and down 15% on earnings.

777-9X, 787-9 and 777-300ER in ANA colours

777-9X, 787-9 and 777-300ER in ANA colors

The troubled unit is Boeing Military Aircraft (BMA) which is struggling with its 767 tanker program (KC46A charged BMA with $187 million and BCA with $238 million due to increased development costs) and it is also fighting to not have its major military airplane program, the F18, stop 3 years from now from lack of orders. The military aircraft order drought contrasts with BCA where first half orders was 783 aircraft, mainly 737 but also 777X, where Emirates and Qatar confirmed their orders for 200 777X. Continue reading

GE analysis post Farnborough

Our wrap up of Farnborough would be incomplete without looking closer at the world’s leading engine supplier, GE Aviation, which together with partners (like SAFRAN in CFM joint venture) garnered more than $36 Billion in orders and commitments during the show. This figure was only significantly bettered by Airbus ($75 Billion) and it came close to Boeing’s $40 Billion. With such level of business the claim by GE Aviation CEO, David Joyce, that the Airbus A330neo engine business was not the right thing for GE as they have more business than then they know what to do with, was certainly no case of “sour grapes”. Continue reading

Bombardier woes go beyond CSeries

The news last week that Bombardier reorganized its business units, laid off another 1,800 employees and saw the retirement of Guy Hachey, president and CEO of the aerospace division, was viewed by some media and observers as an indictment of the CSeries program. While it’s certainly true that delays in the program weigh heavily on BBD, the problems don’t stop with CSeries.

Bombardier has 203 firm orders and 310 commitments for CSeries. This delivery stream doesn't include any potential rescheduling as a result of the grounding of the Flight Test fleet from May as a result of the engine incident.

Bombardier has 203 firm orders and 310 commitments for CSeries. This delivery stream doesn’t include any potential rescheduling as a result of the grounding of the Flight Test fleet from May as a result of the engine incident.

Slow sales of the CRJ, Q400 and business jets–as well as program development issues with a new corporate jet–all combined to drag down financial performance and bleed cash. Bombardier doesn’t have the balance sheet strength of Boeing or Airbus, nor strong sales of other airplane family members, to weather the challenges of new airplane development programs.

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