Boeing didn’t launch, or even say much, about the prospective 737-10, a slightly larger version of the MAX 9 intended to close the gap between the 9 and the Airbus A321neo. Boeing illustrates the 737-8-based MAX 200 as a separate model in its product line up. The 737-10 will slot in above the MAX 200, if built.
Boeing increased the demand in its 20-year Current Market Outlook for the small, twin-aisle airplane by 5%–a move Airbus claims is aimed at the Boeing Board of Directors to entice it to approve launch of the New Mid-range Aircraft, or NMA as Boeing now calls the MOM aircraft.
Airbus said the MOM sector ends at 240 seats (single class) and only a single-aisle airplane makes sense. This is a shift from long-standing messaging that the A321neo covers the lower end of the MOM sector and the A330-200/800 covers the upper end. This message was advanced as recently as the Airbus Innovation Days at the end of May.
With the rhetoric changing a bit, is it time to redefine the MOM sector?
It’s well known that Boeing initially identified the MOM sector as being above the 737-9 and below the 787-8. Airbus agreed, and said it had the sector covered with the A321, especially the neo, and the small A330s.
LNC viewed this sector definition more broadly. As we’ve reported previously, Boeing has been clear: the focus for the 787 is on the -9/10 and not the -8. It really doesn’t want to build the 787-8, mainly because its production is different than the -9/10, it is a money-loser and the profits are with the -9/10. (Boeing told TheStreet.com that it’s committed to the -8.)
What is true is that there are fewer and fewer orders for the -8. As the years progress, there are also fewer and fewer deliveries. It’s been a while since we checked, but according to Ascend, the last -8 is scheduled for delivery in 2020.
Regardless, the +7,200nm range of the -8 is way beyond what the MOM sector is about: 4,500nm to 5,000nm. This means the 788 is too much airplane.
This means at a minimum, the Boeing view of the MOM sector must be redefined. The top end is below the 789, not the 788.
This brings us to the bottom end. The 737-9 continues to be stuck at idle. Prior to Farnborough, at which Airbus announced 100 new commitments for the A321neo, the 737-9 had been outsold by the former at a ratio of about 3:1.
(The official numbers provide a ratio of 4:1. LNC has allocated LionAir MAX TBDs in the same ratio at 737NG orders, boosting the MAX 9 orders to about 413 from the official 270-290.)
The 737-9 is also too small. In all coach, it seats 204 passengers. In dual class, it’s 178 passengers. In shoe-horn density, it’s 220. Range is advertised as 3,515nm, short for unrestricted trans-Atlantic operations since about 20% needs to come off for winds and reserves.
LNC believes the Boeing MOM gap begins with the 737-8 and ends with the 787-9.
The prospective 737-10 is understood to be 230 passengers in high-density and 4,000nm. This is still too small.
Whether it will be an effective competitor to the A321neo is a topic for another time.
The A321neo does a good job at the low end of the MOM sector, provided the mission is high-density cabin configuration and no more than 3,200nm. The balance of the advertised 4,000nm must be held in reserve for wind conditions and alternates.
But the A321LR in international configuration, using United Airlines LOPA, carries 164 passengers—five fewer than UAL’s Boeing 757s and 10 or more fewer than those operated by American Airlines and Delta Air Lines.
Thus, depending on the mission, the A321LR does or doesn’t fulfill the lower end of the MOM sector requirements.
The A330-200/800 is, like the 787-8, too much airplane. The range is more than 7,200nm. The A330-200R (Regional) sold to China is a little much on capacity at the low end (250 passengers in international configuration) but about right on range. But this is “old” technology engines and aerodynamics. A low selling price is a plus, but a be-all, end-all.
The A330-800 is pricier, if more efficient. But details of an A330-800R are non-existent.
However, John Leahy, COO-Customers of Airbus, declared in an interview with LNC at Farnborough that he doesn’t want to sell the A330-200 or the -800, preferring the more profitable 300/900. This pretty well scuttles the Airbus offering at the top end of the MOM sector.
Thus, the Airbus product gap in the MOM sector may or may not start with the A321neo but certainly appears to end with the A330-300/900—which is too large.
The airlines desire an aircraft that is 220-260 passengers in international configuration and 4,500-5,000nm in range. They basically want a Boeing 767-200/300 replacement. And they want it for the seat-mile costs of a single-aisle airplane. For a price that begins with a Seven, or less.
What the airlines want technically is do-able. Whether it can be provided economically comparable with a single aisle is debatable. Whether it can be provided at the price they want is almost certainly impossible.
What Airbus and Boeing do next remains to be seen. Perhaps the Paris Air Show will find some answers.