IAG chief executive Willie Walsh is lukewarm to the prospect of Boeing’s proposed all-new middle-of-the-market aircraft, which he believes is coming late given the availability of Airbus’s A321LR variant of the A320neo family.
Speaking at the recent World Routes in Barcelona, Walsh praised the A321LR’s performance, explaining how Aer Lingus will use the extended range version of the re-engined twinjet to launch single-aisle transatlantic services in 2019. He adds that he sees a wider role for the A321LR at other airlines within IAG. When asked about Boeing’s proposed New Mid-market Airplane (NMA), Walsh says: “It could [play a role on the transatlantic] but it’s a bit late. We’ll be operating the A321 [LR] on the transatlantic in 2019. We’re very keen to get early deliveries on that.” Walsh dismisses Boeing’s 737 Max as it “doesn’t have the range and flexibility, for our point of view”.
However the A321LR could be operated by British Airways, Iberia and, Walsh adds, he’d “be amazed” if Level isn’t using the A321LR. “It’s an aircraft that opens up new opportunities in what traditionally has been a low-demand long-haul segment that you can’t really serve efficiently with existing widebody aircraft,” he says. Boeing recently set up an NMA programme office and appointed former 787 general manager Mark Jenks to head it, signalling that it is moving closer to a launch decision. With interest in the project rising, Flight Ascend Consultancy has produced a 30-page report on its prospects, which examines the sector, what the key market drivers are and why airlines are interested. It also evaluates the likely size of the market, how Airbus will react and the challenges Boeing faces in bringing the aircraft to market. “The scope and size of market for the NMA is clearly uncertain,” says Flight Ascend Consultancy senior consultant Richard Evans. “What is certain is that if (or when) Boeing does launch such an aircraft, there will inevitably be some impact on adjacent types in the market like A321LR, 737 Max, A330neo and 787.” To find out how to order the Flight Ascend Consultancy report, visit: www.flightglobal.com/mom