Odds and Ends: Air France v Rolls-Royce for A350; Virgin America rejigs; Last A340s sold; Heading South with SPEEA

Air France v Rollsr-Royce: The saga continues-see this Bloomberg story. We understand there is more to it than just maintenance. Rolls wants AF to order the Trent 1000 for the 787 order, too.

Virgin America: This airline, headquartered in San Francisco, has been an airline in search of a business plan. Its operations don’t have a niche and didn’t fill a void (like jetBlue created and filled at NY-JFK). It’s lost hundreds of millions of dollars. And, finally, the losses have caught up. Bloomberg has this story about aircraft order deferrals and cancellations. The deferrals are Airbus A320neos (note to Alabama: VA was going to take the first neos from the new Airbus Mobile plant in 2016).

Virgin is seeking to restructure aircraft leases, according to two industry sources. Failing to do so could lead to a Chapter 11 filing, the sources say.

Last A340s Sold: The remaining two Airbus A340-500s, originally destined for ailing Kingfisher Airlines, have been sold.

SPEEA and Boeing: Things appear to be heading south with SPEEA. This could affect Boeing’s year-end push to deliver as many as 50 787s as well as the other 7-Series.

Airbus, Boeing battle for US MAX-NEO market share

With the announcement by Alaska Airlines for 20 737 MAX 8s, 17 737 MAX 9s (and 13 Next-Generation 737-900ERs), Airbus and Boeing continue their battle for the US market.

There are still a number of customers who have not ordered either aircraft. US Airways has been exclusively an Airbus customer. Airbus lost a hard-fought battle to Boeing in the competition for the A321-737-900ER order. ILFC orders seem to be on hold pending its Initial Public Stock offering.

737 MAX A320neo No Order Yet
American* Spirit Airlines US Airways
Aviation Capital Group** Frontier Airlines Delta Air Lines
Southwest Airlines jetBlue
United Airlines American*
Air Lease Corp Aviation Capital Group
GECAS CIT Aerospace
 Alaska Virgin America
*To be affirmed in bankruptcy court**Commitment, not yet converted to firm order  ILFC

AMR’s goofy merger explorations

So AMR says it will explore merger opportunities as part of its bankruptcy process.

The choices of potential partners are odd, indeed. According to The Wall Street Journal, AMR’s choices for a potential combination with American Airlines are US Airways, JetBlue, Alaska Air Group, Republic Airways Holdings’s Frontier Airlines, and Virgin America.

The Wall Street Journal notes: Besides US Airways, none of the others has publicly expressed a desire to merge with American. JetBlue and Alaska Air have indicated they prefer to remain independent, and people familiar with closely held Virgin America also said the company isn’t interested. Asked about that, Mr. Horton said: “If somebody’s not interested, they’re not interested.”

The choices, aside from US Airways, are pretty goofy. None is a network carrier that would add a system to American. JetBlue and Alaska Airlines would certainly beef up the East and West coasts, respectively, where American is weak. JetBlue would add strength to American’s JFK international hub. But neither brings a network to the airline.

Frontier Airlines and Virgin America wouldn’t bring even the attributes offered by JetBlue and Alaska. Frontier’s Denver hub competes with United Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Does American really want to get into this fight? We think not.

Virgin America, which regularly posts huge losses, isn’t strong in San Francisco where it is based and neither is American. We don’t understand why this airline is even mentioned.

The only airline that makes sense for consideration among those mentioned is US Airways. US Airways has a network, strong East Coast presence, and a sharp management, which wants to be in control and this seems to be the biggest obstacle for the AMR/American management.

And it only makes sense for the US Airways management to be the surviving one.

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Assessing the 737-900ER vs Airbus NEO

AeroTurboPower has an interesting piece looking at the fuel burn and cash costs of the 737-900ER vs the A320neo and A321neo.

The post is noteworthy as an independent analysis to Airbus or Boeing. Boeing, of course, claims the 737-900ER is more efficient that either the A321 Legacy or A321neo.