Boeing’s twin-aisle product strategy provides better segment coverage than Airbus

Boeing’s airplane strategy has shifted its focus to twin-aisle aircraft with the decision to proceed with the 737 MAX, says Nicole Piasecki, vice president of Business Development & Strategic Integration for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

BCA has some critical tasks and choices ahead:

  • Complete the design and get into production the 787-9;
  • Launch the 787-10; and
  • Decide what to do to enhance the 777 to compete with the Airbus A350-1000.

Although launching the 787-10 is considered by most to be a foregone conclusion, it hasn’t happened yet. And although Boeing has been showing some reasonably detailed concepts around about the 777-8X, a 350-passenger replacement for the 777-300ER, and the 777-9X, a 407 passenger aircraft, neither concept is firm—and, according to one airline fleet planner, it’s not even clear Boeing will do much more than simply re-engine the current 777-300ER.

Nonetheless, Piasecki showed a group of reporters the Boeing product planning in a pre-Farnborough Air Show briefing that clearly demonstrates Boeing has better market segment coverage than Airbus today or potentially in the future. (Click to enlarge.)

“We are very happy with this line-up on the left, which very strongly leverages three families of products. When we go to market our ability to offer this product,” Piasecki said. “Customers are looking for airplanes that fit their route network.”

This has led Boeing to somewhat modify its wide-body strategy.

“If they don’t have to carry around so much fuel because they are only flying 5,000 miles, they no longer want that airplane [with more capability]. A year ago…I said all our wide-body airplanes were going to line up at 8,000-8,200nm. Our thinking has shifted…to offering twin aisle airplanes that have 10-15% seat capacity increments because that’s generally where an airline will decide to up-gauge. There is up-gauging going on it the market. We begin to think about difference in ranges within the family. We have a mid-range…and a longer-haul wide-body market. Both are very viable.”

This is the basis on which the 787-10 is currently going to have a range of about 6,900nm. It’s also the strategy Airbus outlined as it promoted the A330-300 as an airline ideally suited for intra-Asia, mid-range trans-ocean and mid-range European routes. Once an aircraft with a modest, intermediate range, the A333 has been improved to a range of not quite 6,000nm. This is well short of the planned range for the 787-10, but it is more than enough for most routes.

Boeing’s illustration above clearly shows the Airbus gaps, one of which is particularly acute between the 350-seat A350-1000 and the 525-seat A380. (It should be noted that airlines often configure the A380 in the high 400s and one, Korean, even as low as about 410. Likewise, Lufthansa–so far the only operator of the 747-8I–configured the airplane for about 380 passengers.)

The 777-9X, if it proceeds as currently being shown to airlines, has a three-class capacity of 407, thrusting it into the lowest end of the Very Large Airplane (VLA) category (>400 seats) that currently is occupied by the 747-8I and the A380.

18 Comments on “Boeing’s twin-aisle product strategy provides better segment coverage than Airbus

  1. It is possible that Airbus aims at keeping the A330-300 competitive against the B787. The alternative would be to leave the market entirely. Hundreds of A330 and A340 are flying around today, and the only real replacement is the B787. A re-engine – although denied by Airbus – might be a viable strategy, but of course connected with the obvious risk.

    There are opportunities in the “100 seat gap” between B777-300/9X and A380-800. But any new development would require a 10+ Billion investment and face competition from both sides. I think Airbus will launch the A380-900/800+ as soon as Boeing homes in on the B777-9X. Basically an A380 with A350-engines and increased weights.

  2. Thank you Scott
    It’s always interesting to see Boeing’s seat count for Airbus planes (and the reverse also)
    Airbus claims the A350-1000 is 350 PAX 3 cl and 369 PAX 2 cl
    But the gap between the A350-1000 and the A380-800 is obvious 😉
    Do you know a way to find boeing’s presentation, now that’s it’s no more NDA’ed

    Have a good day

  3. Nothing has changed.
    ( someone on a.net posted links to an B767 versus A310 spat in the early eighties.)
    We see the same strained B sophistry on why they are surely better than anyone else.

    • Saw that too, couldn’t help but laugh reading that bit in the article.

  4. Will Boeing maintain the B748I in production, after the EIS of the B777-9 ??
    And Airbus, may stop the A330, in 2018, apart if they choose to go NEO, and keep it alive some more years !

    These are very possible hypothesis ??

  5. “It should be noted that airlines often configure the A380 in the high 400s and one, Korean, even as low as about 410” – and that, it seems to me, blows the whole smoke and mirrors trick wide open!

    By placing a single point for each aircraft on the Airbus side, while allowing a spread for the 777/777X creates an optical illusion that there is a huge gap for Airbus which is mostly covered by Boeing… but it’s a trick!

    If we allow a similar spread in seat numbers for all the aircraft on the chart to reflect *actual* seat counts like those mentioned in the quote, you’ll find that in fact the A380 “smears” down close to meeting the A350-1000 region.

    For balance: you’ll find the same for the 747-8i as well. So both manufacturers provide aircraft to cover most of the seat counts between ~200 and ~500 (although Airbus goes quite a bit higher than Boeing).

    • SomeoneInToulouse :“It should be noted that airlines often configure the A380 in the high 400s and one, Korean, even as low as about 410″ – and that, it seems to me, blows the whole smoke and mirrors trick wide open!
      By placing a single point for each aircraft on the Airbus side, while allowing a spread for the 777/777X creates an optical illusion that there is a huge gap for Airbus which is mostly covered by Boeing… but it’s a trick!
      If we allow a similar spread in seat numbers for all the aircraft on the chart to reflect *actual* seat counts like those mentioned in the quote, you’ll find that in fact the A380 “smears” down close to meeting the A350-1000 region.
      For balance: you’ll find the same for the 747-8i as well. So both manufacturers provide aircraft to cover most of the seat counts between ~200 and ~500 (although Airbus goes quite a bit higher than Boeing).

      I wonder who is fooled by the marketing hype that is used by both OEM’s. Perhaps some members of the press or general investors, but the Carriers and Lessors should be very familiar with what is going on and evaluate and make decisions on what is best for them, their routes and their customers.

      The various sleight of hands or exaggerations are part of the surface of the competition but beneath it all is a tough scrutiny and measurements and financial criteria.

      It is engaging and informative to read the reports and comments on this site, but I assume the few professionals who contribute to the dialogue also have counterparts who do this professionally with the ability to cut through the hype

      • You may overestimate the “professionals” and how cool calm and collected final decission are done.
        ( remember: Leahy had to dance in a disco for some sales 😉

  6. Well, SomeoneInTime, it does seem that the gap in the A lineup is a 4 engine quad (380) being down configured for premium cabin purposes. That is not likely to be a widespread tactic to compete with efficient 2 engine twins that B is building and proposing. The 340 (a quad) failed in that approach and is now no longer in production. Neither the 380 or 747-8 are going to sell like hotcakes (although the 747-8f will be built for a long time) at least for now until the economy improves or hub crowding worsens.
    A needs to get the 350 right, then look at either the 330 replacement or a direct 777x competitor. To me, you have to wonder if the attempt to cover the market with the 350 8, 9, and 10 is going to work against an optimized lineup that B is proposing. The 9 looks great, but the 8 and 10 are ? I would guess they would look at the 330 replacement first, but if B ramps up beyond 10 a month the market may be already sold.

  7. Boeing is right, Airbus certainly has a gab between the A340-600/A350-1000 and the much larger A380. The 777-9X will certainly fit in nice, if its build after 2019.

    The seatcount method used by Boeing assumes 45-50 inch seat for business class and 60 inch for first. http://www.boeing.com/commercial/777family/pf/pf_seating_charts.html
    I remember that was a general average standard, in the 1990-2000 period. Boeing probably kept to standarize and it works great for per seat comparisons, e.g. CASM!

    Airbus has more realistic approach using 60 inch for Business, 80 inch for First. Now, does that really make a difference? Yes, if you use these number for public communication on efficiency, it does. Not for the airlines, they plot in their own configurations to see differences..

    Using apple to apple comparisons the 747-8i is a 390-430 seat aircraft, the A380 a 490-540 seat aircraft. Based on available square revenue meters and same seat specs, bars etc. I think Airbus less sees the 747-8i as a competitor. Airlines do not buy it for passengers.

    The 777-300ER is slightly bigger then the A350-1000, but it doesn´t pay off if both aircraft have 9 abreast in economy, 6 in business and 4 in First. Cabin length is what matters in that case. 10 abreast is possible on the 777, but I don´t see mainline airlines using it on long competitive mainline routes.

    The real painful gab Nicole Piasecki forgot to mention, that is not in the future, is the middle of the twin aisle market. The 777-200ER/LR backlog evapored during the last decade (14 unfilled now), the 787-9 comes 4-7 years late. Meanwhile A330-300 and A350-900 sales boomed, often combined.

    “A year ago…I said all our wide-body airplanes were going to line up at 8,000-8,200nm. Our thinking has shifted…to offering twin aisle airplanes that have 10-15% seat capacity increments because that’s generally where an airline will decide to up-gauge.“

    Boeings thinking suddenly shifted.. A quick fill for the 300 seat gab would be a 787 stretch. Seeing the A330-300 just refuses to die and the 777-200 new engine always would remain heavy, the 787-10 became a good idea. Using the 787-8s wing restricts the MTOW / range though. Hence the new thinking on what the market needs.

  8. So does it finally dawn to Nicole that aiming for a twin-aisle product portfolio with 8,000NM+ range capability across the board was a huge fallacy? Or is this new wisdom just born out of the consideration that 6,000NM is all Boeing can hope to get out of the weight-limited 787-10X as long as they do not have a better idea for a CFRP wing root join design that would allow a larger, longer span wing?

    • Well, one has a status quo to work from and then a fantastic story is woven around that situation. Boeings “planning” seems to be all done from a post facts situation.

  9. Uwe :You may overestimate the “professionals” and how cool calm and collected final decission are done.( remember: Leahy had to dance in a disco for some sales

    So much for rationality!

  10. Airbus might decide to do an A350-1100 instead of the A350-800.

  11. It is too early to predict or speculate on the evolutions of the A350 Family !

    They may be numerous, freighter, reduced range and MTOW, larger, or shorter wings, etc … the A350-1100 may not be excluded !
    They have first to get the A359 and A351 out !
    The A358 has been sacrificed to win time on the A351, it will take a niche , close to the ULH … no more, very low engineering, just the panels and beams to adjust !
    The A358, may loose some weight, when times allow it, after A351 EIS … may be, and I hope he may get one day a 5-6 000 Nm light version … Just give Airbus some time to make it !

    The improved A333 will be presented at Farnborough, not a NEO, just a few %, maybe 5%, heavily relying on motorist, to help for a 3-4 year longer career !

    If Airbus don’t go A330 NEO, it’s a strong signal the A358, will undergo further developments !

    Reed this post from Andrea Rothman, very well connected with Toulouse , from Bloomberg !

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-07-06/airbus-said-to-market-improved-a330-to-bolster-range-of-aircraft.html

  12. keesje :
    The 777-300ER is slightly bigger then the A350-1000, but it doesn´t pay off if both aircraft have 9 abreast in economy, 6 in business and 4 in First. Cabin length is what matters in that case. 10 abreast is possible on the 777, but I don´t see mainline airlines using it on long competitive mainline routes.

    Sadly, this is wrong.
    Lots of airlines (mainline) are configuring the 77W with 10 abreast. Emirates and AF/KLM are some of them, and those are configured on long competitive routes (all routes basically with 777 from those).

    The 350 is somehow a better compromise (passenger wise) as it will definitely be too narrow to get a 10 abreast, and denying the option of a really incomfortable 10 abreast.

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