The two civil airliner giants both attended the Farnborough Air Show with Boeing (BA) conducting the first overseas flight of the new 787 and EADS (EADS:P) sending an A380. Both companies announced substantial orders from a variety of airlines and leasing agents while also taking the time to criticize their opposition’s bids for the KC-X new Air Force aerial tanker.
Boeing received an order for sixty 737 aircraft from Mr. Udvar-Hazy’s new leasing company as well as Emirates Airlines needing thirty 777 wide body aircraft. GE’s leasing company also bought forty 737 aircraft and Avalon twelve. Royal Jordanian airline purchased three of the new 787.
EADS got an order from Russia’s Aeroflot for eleven A330. That carrier already operates sixty-four A320 and 10 A330. Hong Kong Air followed with a plan to buy fifteen of the new A350 XWB, the equivalent of the composite 787, and ten A330. The Chilean carrier LAN also bought fifty A320.
All-in-all both companies felt very good about their orders and the future of the airline industry. There are hopes that the world economy is recovering and this will lead to more sales and greater investment in new equipment.
At the same time the two companies sniped at each other about the ongoing U.S. Air Force KC-X aerial tanker contract. Boeing submitted a bid to use their new 767 variant, NewGen Tanker, to replace the aging KC-135 fleet. EADS has based their proposal around the A330 like they did with their last proposal.
Boeing is making clear that they will offered a very competitive price based on their reducing production costs by leaning out their line. Boeing believes that in the end the contest will be decided on price and they plan on having the best price including lifetime operating costs.
EADS agrees that price is important but at the Air Show the CEO, Mr. Gallois, made clear that there won’t be a sacrifice of profit to just win the contract. Due to problems with the A380 and the A400M transport aircraft EADS has some financial issues to face and while it might be attractive to win the contract the company may not really be able to afford to not have some money made on it. The size of the recent commercial orders indicate that the military contract while it would open the European company up to a new market is not critical to their future.
The European Union (EU) has appealed the recent WTO ruling that their aid to EADS amounted to an illegal subsidy. The company and leaders in Europe have also decried the decision by the trade body to delay their ruling on the similar Boeing case. Boeing’s allies in the U.S. have used the WTO decision to say that EADS has an unfair advantage in the KC-X competition as it received the subsidies. EADS and the EU is countering by saying that the U.S. military contracts over the last fifty years to Boeing are the same thing.
The Pentagon has made it quite clear that despite the desires of some in Congress they cannot take the WTO decision into account in their source selection.
It will be a long hot summer at this rate, and when the decision is announced in November the chance of a protest by one of the losers is very high. The contract is a key military one in the next few decades no matter what each company says about it. Winning the contract will give them a leg up on their competitors for the future orders for tankers and aid them in getting more and better commercial contracts.