With the formal launch by Boeing of the 737 MAX 200, the 200-seat high density version of the 737-8 with an order for 100+100 from Ryanair, Airbus was quick to launch its own critique on the airplane.
Kiran Rao, Executive Vice President, Sales & Marketing for Airbus, was quick to take aim at the advertised seating capacity of the MAX 200 and at the 197 seats Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary says will be in the carrier’s configuration.
In an interview with Leeham News and Comment, Rao said that Boeing has to eliminate too many galley carts, even at reduced food and beverage options, to adequately service passengers. One cart is needed for every 40 passengers.
“The galley on the 189 seat A320 has eight trolleys (carts),” Rao told us. “The 200 seater 737 has only five trolleys. We have spent time optimizing our design as all our customers needed galley space. Up to 30% of low cost carrier revenue comes from ancillary revenue. You don’t get a free meal or drink on an LCC but you can buy one and the margin on sales is greater than the margin selling seats. Hence LCCs need galley space and our A320 with 189 seats is the optimum use of space.”
As we noted last week, the MAX 200, at 200 seats, requires an additional flight attendant. At 199 seats, the additional attendant (and its cost) is not required. O’Leary said his Max 200s would be configured with 197 seats. Rao believes Ryanair ultimately will have to configure for 194 seats because of the trolley requirement to efficiently service the passengers for the ancillary revenue that is the staple of Ryanair’s business model.
O’Leary said the average seat pitch will be 30 inches. Rao disagrees.
“At 200 seats the vast majority of seats are at 28 inch pitch. Even at 194 the seat pitch is 28, as the lost seats are replaced with galley,” he says. “For the A320 at 189 seats, the majority of seats between Door 1 and mid cabin exit are at 30 in pitch. Behind the mid- cabin we are also at 28 in pitch.” He also says that the narrower 17.2 inch wide seat on the 737, compared with the 18-inch wide seat on the A320, had to be offset by seat pitch, which is now more cramped.
Rao doesn’t stop there.
“The MAX 200 max weighs 300 kg more than the 737-8, [resulting in a] 0.3% increase in fuel burn. Will Boeing make the [MAX 200] modification standard? That means 70% of customers will carry 300kg they don’t need. If it’s not standard, 30% of the customers have a sub-fleet.”
Rao also claimed the MAX 200 won’t have enough overhead bin space for the increased passenger capacity, though we might point out that since nearly all LCCs charge for checked baggage, this may not be viewed as a negative.
“The overhead bins on the 737 are already too small,” Rao said. “With 200 passengers, I would not like to be the cabin crew trying to solve the space puzzle.”
Rao said that the A320 189-seat configuration is retrofitable and available now. The MAX 200 is not retrofitable and not available until 2019.
Rao also claims the MAX 200 makes the 737-9 “redundant.”
“The 737-9 is stuck at 215 seats with poor performance and a small customer base,” he says. “The 200 seat 737-8 makes the 215 seat 737-9 redundant. Hence the 737 family will be reduced to one member,” calling the 737-7 a “non-seller.” (There are 55 orders to two customers.) “The A321…goes up to 240 seats vs 189 seats on the A320. There is no aircraft in the world that beats the seat mile cost of a 240 seat A321neo.
“In summary, the nine seat delta today between the 737-8 and the A320 will be reduced to five seats. Our fuel efficiency will make the five seat delta insufficient to cover the delta costs. Hence the A320neo will lead the market for the next decade,” Rao says. “The A321neo is an order of magnitude better than the 737-9…and the sales figures prove it. Boeing is not well positioned in the Single Aisle market.”