Airbus may have booked close to 900 orders for the A320neo family by the time the air show ends tomorrow, a plane that Boeing says merely reaches “parity” with the 737-800.
Airbus, of course, hotly disputes Boeing’s computations and says if the A320 were so deficient to the 737-800, why would airlines and lessors buy so many of them?
Airbus has a point. The NEO is now, by far, the fastest-selling aircraft in aviation history. More NEOs have been sold in the 6 1/2 months since launch that the 787 in the four years since launch and the A350 in the time since it’s been launched, a date which varies depending on which version of the airplane is used as the launch date.
Boeing likes to play sanguine about the NEO, professing that nothing has happened that they hadn’t anticipated. But surely they couldn’t have truly expected 1,000 orders by now. Only Heidi Wood of Morgan Stanley suggested this, and her prediction was largely ridiculed.
This apparently even exceeded the expectations of John Leahy, COO of Customers for Airbus.
We interviewed Leahy only yesterday and he didn’t steer us off a suggestion of 800 by the end of the show. (We’ll be working on Leahy’s interview shortly.)
Boeing dismisses the sales as a threat to Boeing, saying they have come from Airbus customers. Except for a few minor technicalities, this is true. But this is beside the point.
These sales mean cash flow to Airbus. By any standard, this number of sales is important. For Airbus, still struggling with cash flow from the A400M, R&D for the A350 and an A380 program this is still on a major incline to profitability, this is a major boost.
Leahy believes he will have a legacy 737 operator in the US as a NEO customer by year end. We think he will, too. But if it is Delta Air Lines, we don’t think this will “move” Boeing execs. On the other hand, if it were United, American or Southwest airlines, this would. We consider it not likely these will be ready this year. We think these are most likely next-year customers and we think nSouthwest a long-shot, but no impossible.