The Boeing 737 MAX grounding is not causing Airbus to make any change to its commercial strategy, Airbus’ chief salesman said Tuesday.

Briefing reporters in Toulouse as part of an overall update for media on its programs, Airbus CCO Christian Scherer was questioned on the implications for Airbus of the MAX grounding and investigations. In particular, Boeing’s focus on returning the MAX to service means any plans to launch an all new airliner for the mid-size market are on a backburner.

While Boeing appears to remain committed to developing what it has called the new midsize airplane (NMA), the MAX crisis means any potential NMA launch date—originally thought to be earmarked for 2020—will slip.

Potentially, that provides an opportunity for Airbus to get a sales lead in the middle market with versions of its A321LR, just as it stole a march on Boeing by getting the re-engined A320neo family to market ahead of the MAX.

But Scherer played down any strategy change by Airbus as a result of the MAX grounding that followed two fatal crashes of the aircraft within six months.

The MAX situation “has not changed anything of the behavior of Airbus and we should resist the temptation to see a correlation,” Scherer said May 21. “Our strategy is not coaligned with the current Boeing situation and I want to stress that.”

On an NMA launch, Scherer said, “there is a part of me that wishes Boeing makes that mistake because what value does that aircraft bring to this market?”

He pointed out that developing a clean-sheet airliner costs billions and should only be considered when technology brings something new to the market that can reduce airlines’ biggest costs—fuel, labor and/or capital investment.

“We believe we are on very solid ground with incremental improvements” to existing aircraft like the A321, Scherer said.

Scherer also noted that in the middle of the market, there is “no one size that fits all in this market; you want the most flexible, economic solution.”

Airbus, he said, has “left hook, right hook” product offerings with the A321LR and A330neo; the A321LR “is a narrowbody with widebody trip costs and unbelievable economics”, while the A330neo can span routes from one hour hops to 10 hour flights.

“From a competitive posture, we have a rock—the A321LR—and a hard place—the A330neo,” Scherer said.

Karen Walker