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Analyst: Refleeting Tipping Point Ahead

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A boom sales time lies ahead for the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737MAX, but the era of the regional jet is over.

Those were among the key messages in an insightful presentation by Teal Group VP and aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia at an Aero Club luncheon in Washington on Friday.

Aboulafia sees a "big bull market" for the neo and MAX in 2016-2017, especially in North America as airlines, spurred (and horrified) by $100+ per gallon prices for fuel, rush to replace their legacy fleets.

"If you are still flying a 737-300 and the other guy is flying a neo or MAX, then you are toast," he said.

He said fuel burn and technology were the only things left to US carriers to further cut costs, having stripped out all excess cost items, such as blankets, in the system-wide endeavor to become low cost carriers.

Aboulafia acknowledged there could be a bit of a dip in orders in the 2014-2015 period, but said there was would be really fast ramp-up after that.

Third-party financing will be critical to this boom, he added.

But Aboulafia had only pessimism for the outlook for regional jets. "Who are the losers? Oh my God, the regionals," he said. The days of multiple regional-jet hubs across North America are not coming back and the focus will be on getting out of the regional market, with the exception of the Russians. Bombardier has a potential window of opportunity with its C-Series, but it has to act now. "This refleeting thing will be a tipping point," he said.

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