Boeing 737 Max

Airbus, Boeing face continued issues with A380s, 737 MAXs

Boeing 737 MAX with updated winglets

They are very different airliners but they both face important issues that continue to attract analyst and carrier scrutiny. The giant Airbus A380 needs more sales, and the comparatively miniscule Boeing 737 MAX needs, according to a range of reports, a better new tech engine.

This Reuters story makes it crystal clear that Airbus is going to extract more performance enhancements from the A380 before it decides precisely how it will do an NEO (new engine option) version.

Over at Boeing the claimed performance issues that have been simmering away for months over the new technology US-French LEAP engine for the 737 MAX series haven’t gone away either.

The main game for Airbus and Boeing at the moment is the contest between the former’s single aisle A320 NEO line and the Boeing response, the 737 MAX line, which isn’t just suffering from bad engine press coverage, but is coming a distant sales second to the European competitor as well as being at least two years later to reach the market, in late 2017 versus late this year for the Airbus product.

However the most informative report on this problem to date, by Airways News, makes some important and fair observations as to how these matters might not be as big a calamity for the MAX as some voices close to competing engine maker Pratt & Whitney have suggested.

Virgin Australia will no doubt be looking on with skin in the game. It has ordered the 737 MAX for late this decade, and if it arrives with a built in performance shortfall compared to the NEO (which could end up flying for Qantas as well as Jetstar) then there will be much unhappiness on the campus.

But it’s all four years in the future at this stage.

Back to the A380. Emirates has built its business around growth that has made it the world’s largest user of current versions of the Boeing 777 as well as the Airbus A380, and it will become the largest user of the advanced 777-X line when it comes into service early next decade.

Emirates has made it known that it intends to greatly expand its A380 operations as well, including through the ultimate roll over of that fleet to an NEO or new engine technology version of the giant Airbus, which it now uses on routes as long as 16 hours between Dubai and Los Angeles.

It has made everything that A380 critics say look silly with the success of its operations of the big Airbus. Last week Emirates said it would convert some of its A380s to a two class configuration with 615 seats compared to as few as 489 seats now. It already has 777-300ERs in two class configurations that offer 427 seats.

At 615 seats over the same route lengths as the 427 seat 777s the A380 is likely to be even more cost efficient that the twin engined jet, even with the ‘disadvantage’ cost wise, of offering a superior amenity in its economy and business class seating compared to the comparatively stuffy seating Emirates puts in its 777s.

There will of course be a fierce Airbus v Boeing debate over this, by people who forget that Emirates flies both types and knows a great deal about getting the best out of each, and wants more of each.

Even before an A380 NEO is built there is room for additional fuel in the basic structure of its wing and the current engine options for it both have designed capabilities to deliver more power. Similarly Boeing intends to deliver current model 777s with performance enhancements to sustain production pending the transition to the X series early in the next decade.

Emirates will consequently deliver top performing services on 777s and A380s, but from the perspective of a large or tall person, it is a shame that the Dubai carrier thinks 777 customers deserve an inferior level of personal space on the twin engined jet.


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