Boeing may have lost the last Singapore Airlines (SIA) deal to its European rival Airbus but the game is not over yet, said a senior executive at the American plane-maker.
In October, Airbus scored a major coup when SIA said it would be the launch customer for a new ultra-long-range variant of the A-350, which will start flying in 2018. The new jet will enable SIA to resume non-stop flights between Singapore and the United States, which it had canned in 2013 partly due to high operating costs.
Boeing’s senior vice-president of sales (commercial aircraft) for Asia-Pacific and India, Mr Dinesh Keskar, told The Straits Times: “SIA is an important customer. Others look at what they do and see if they can do the same thing.”
In the end, Boeing lost the deal purely because of timing, he said. “SIA needed to have this aircraft in 2018 but our aircraft – the B-777-8X – would be available only towards the end of the decade so we were unfortunately not able to match their timing requirements.
“But we’re OK with it,” Mr Keskar added, noting that the A-350 ultra-long-range jet order was just for seven planes.
Boeing will continue to keep SIA updated on the progress and development of the B-777-X jet which has already garnered orders from a handful of carriers including Emirates, Cathay Pacific and All Nippon Airways, he said.
SIA currently has a fleet of more than 100 aircraft, almost equally split between Boeing and Airbus.
But Airbus seems to have the upper hand for future deliveries.
SIA has an order for 67 A-350s, including seven of the ultra-long-range variant, as well as five A-380s.
It has 30 B-787-10s on order.
Across the SIA Group, though, Boeing is well placed, Mr Keskar pointed out.
SIA’s long-haul budget arm Scoot and SIA Cargo operate all-Boeing fleets. Scoot has 10 B-787s to be delivered over the coming years.
In 2012, regional arm SilkAir, which had until then operated only Airbus jets for more than a decade, switched to Boeing and confirmed its biggest aircraft order. The deal was for 54 single-aisle B-737s including 37 B-737-Max-8s, which will start arriving late next year.
As for SIA, there are no plans yet to confirm any new orders.
On whether the airline is keen on the B-777-X, SIA spokesman Nicholas Ionides said: “We discuss fleet requirements with manufacturers on a regular basis, in line with our longstanding policy to maintain a young and modern fleet. Any discussions with manufacturers are kept confidential, however.”