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ATW Editor's Blog

PARIS 2019 BLOG: Air transport industry confidence on display

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The fourth and final trade show day saw a handful of additional Airbus narrowbody orders or conversions, closing a show that was relatively light on new airliner order numbers—as anticipated—but which still delivered some surprises.

The biggest bolt from the blue by far was International Airline Group’s (IAG) LOI for 200 Boeing 737 MAXs. Announced on Tuesday, when a widely-anticipated order from Korean Air for Boeing 787s and commitments from China Airlines and Qatar Airways for 777Fs were also released, gave Boeing a really good day in a show its executives knew would be one their toughest ever.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Airbus saved its biggest announcements for the other three days, with the most important being the launch of the A321XLR. The breadth and quality of launch customers for the new extra long-range narrowbody was impressive. Airbus ended the show with 260 orders, commitments and/or conversions for the XLR from a top lessor, three flagships spanning Europe, Australia and the US, and a bunch of well-established LCCs. CCO Christian Scherer shows no signs of living in the shadow of retired Airbus chief salesman John Leahy.

It was also a good show for the A220, with more than 100 orders/commitments for the narrowbody Airbus acquired from Bombardier and which has proven to be a natural fit.

ATR, meanwhile, accumulated sufficient small numbers of orders and commitments from various regional airlines to give a decent end-of-show tally of more than 40 that will keep its turboprop production line healthy.

Embraer’s show announcements were the weakest of the main airliner OEMs; essentially just one order for 15 firm, 25 purchase rights from KLM Cityhopper for the E195-E2.

Notable about all these “order” announcements was that most of them were not firm orders. This is often the case with air show announcements, but there seemed to be an unusually diverse set of terms used to describe these deals: LOI; commitment; purchase right; MOU; intent to order; even ‘agreed to order’. But it was also unusual relative to past air shows that practically every customer name-airline or lessor-was an established brand. The vague deal terminology was probably an indicator of the flexibility that these customers want than their ability to follow through, so the majority of these commitments can be expected to become firm, although the variants and numbers might change down the road.

There was plenty of activity and deals beyond the airliner orders. CFM International had a particularly good show, scoring orders and commitments for 1,150 LEAP engines valued at more than $50 billion. Among those deals, it saw Indian LCC IndiGo flip from the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G to the LEAP-1A as its preferred engine for its A320neos.

It was also—and increasingly is so at air shows—a good week for MRO and aftermarket support providers.

At the end of the week, what does it all mean beyond sore feet and hundreds of grip-and-grins? In summary:

  • That airlines and lessors were ready to jump on a game-changing narrowbody that will allow them to broaden their networks and experiment with new route launches that a widebody would be too expensive to risk;
  • That the MAX will be back and its confidence-restoration campaign has begun;
  • And most of all, that despite the international trade and war-threat tensions, Brexit, the 2020 US elections and other political, sustainability and economic uncertainties, the commercial air transport industry remains confident in its forecasts for continued strong growth. A total of 726 new airliner orders and commitments is a good week’s work.

Karen Walker karen.walker@informa.com

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