US Airways early this morning announced it has deferred deliveries of 54 Airbus wide- and narrow-body airplanes from 2010 to 2013 and beyond, including the A350 from 2015 to 2017.
While a blow to Airbus on the one hand, it could help the company win the order on at United Airlines on the other.
The battle between Boeing and Airbus to win United’s order heated up significantly from our October 21 report in which we noted that, at the time, United was leaning toward Airbus. Since then Boeing has come on strong with the 787 to Airbus’s A350. The Chicago Tribune has this report on the competition.
The A350 deferral by USAirways opens up early delivery positions in 2015 for United. The lack of early delivery slots has been on on-going problem for both Airbus and Boeing, with the large backlogs for the A350 and 787 programs. Boeing, of course, has had some 80+ cancellations for the 787 and a number of deferrals. There has been a debate within Boeing whether to release these positions to Sales to offer to potential customers such as United; or for Production to retain the slots as a means to catch up on nearly three years of delays. We don’t know if this debate has been resolved one way or another, or if some slots have been returned to Sales and others kept by Production or how the Line 2 decision plays into this.
What we do know is that at least initially Boeing has been challenged in offering early slots to United.
The now-open 2015 slots for the A350 could be a tipping point in the campaign unless Boeing can do better. As always, pricing and financing offered by both sides will be important, too.
As for the single-aisle campaign, this won’t begin until next year.
This really seems to be a zero sum game for both airframers. We have punted a highly speculative order from US that never made any sense as deliveries were to be well over the horizon to another carrier that is equally ugly in the cash department. Did we learn nothing from the housing blunder that we can not operate on the never – never plan? Never own it and certainly never pay for it.
* Separating single aisle from widebody, is because there the only one aircraft that is able to replace B757 is a “wingletted” (or sharkletted) A321. There is no competition – it can wait. (And it fits nicely into the fleet.) Since the widebody order will be with Boeing I can see no benefits for UA to hurry…
* Despite what has been said about B748 from UA this is a “must win battle” for Boeing. B787 will in the end be a very good business case for Boeing, and throwing some B748 into the same contract with a loss does not mean that much. The total contract will still be “surplus” and give great cashflow.
30 B787 orders(788,789 and maybe-10?) and 50 options.
10 B748 orders + 10 options
AND of course a bunch of A321’s at springtime.
I think this deferral by US Airways doesn’t signify anything else than very low air traffic growth expectations of US Airways.
It doesn’t signify a commitment or non-commitment for one specific aircraft builder.
As United Airways is acting in the same economic environment, they most probabely also will hesitate to place firm orders in the near future.
I do not expect United Airways to decide on their fleet renewal any time soon.