India is the latest battleground for the Boeing-Airbus rivalry
Boeing Co.’s efforts to undermine sales of Airbus SE’s newest wide-body aircraft -- the A330neo -- have moved beyond US borders and into India, a market seen by the European planemaker as crucial to extending sales for the plane into Asia.
In the latest setback to the Toulouse, France-based manufacturer Airbus, the Indian affiliate of Singapore Airlines Ltd., Vistara, opted for the 787, people familiar with the matter said, passing over the Airbus model, which along with the bigger A350 was designed to take on the Dreamliner. It follows similar lost campaigns at American Airlines Group Inc. and Hawaiian Holdings Inc., both of which scrapped their orders for Airbus jets and picked the 787 instead.
The American planemaker’s crusade, backed by aggressive pricing and President Donald Trump’s tax cuts, is already showing results. Airbus in April said it’ll scale back production of the A330 family as it transitions to the newer model in part due to lower than expected sales, with plans to hand over only 50 of the jets annually from next year, compared with 67 in 2017. The jet, which has new engines from Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc, is an upgraded version of the existing A330 wide-body.
“Boeing is not trying to give us an easy time,” Eric Schulz, chief commercial officer for Airbus, said in an interview on Sunday in Sydney. “And I can tell you we are as well.”
Airbus chief executive officer Tom Enders said in April that the Boeing sales team is the most “aggressive” in 20 years.
Vistara is poised to place an order for six 787s, with an option to buy four more, the people said over the weekend, asking not to be identified as the information isn’t public. The most expensive model of the Dreamliner has a list price of $325.8 million, making the order from the Indian carrier worth as much as $3.3 billion, including options. Airbus is making better headway with Vistara in terms of narrow-body aircraft. The planemaker is favored to pull in an order for as many as 60 new-engine, single-aisle airliners to gain a stronger foothold in India.
For Boeing, the effort comes as it pursues a new middle-of-the-market aircraft that would target the A330neo from the bottom. It also builds pressure on Airbus’s sales team at a time when Schulz, who took over from veteran John Leahy in February, is settling into the post.
Hawaiian Air said in March that it would cancel its contract for the smallest variant of the Airbus model, which now has no orders, and pick Boeing planes. American Airlines switched camp this April and ordered 47 Dreamliners in a $12.3 billion deal at listed prices.
“If you take a look at Airbus, they have an A330neo family that’s not doing well,” Randy Tinseth, a Boeing marketing vice president, said in an interview in Sydney on Sunday. The change in tax structure is an opportunity for the American planemaker, and that provides it a “tax equalization” against its rivals, he said.
Airbus has previously said it has a series of ongoing sales campaigns for the A330neo with more than 100 airlines that currently operate the older version of the plane. The 250-seat A330-800 is on track for its first flight in the middle of this year, with the bigger -900 variant set to enter into service around the same time with launch operator TAP -- Air Portugal.
Vistara is leaning toward buying the A320neo jets after a contest with Boeing’s 737 Max model, according to people who asked not to be identified as the information isn’t public. The carrier will make an announcement soon, one of the officials said. The A320neo has an average list price of about $110 million, valuing the deal at $6.6 billion before discounts that are common in large aircraft purchases.
-- With assistance from Kyunghee Park.