TOULOUSE- Facing a backlog extending over several years, Airbus is said to be exploring the option of reclaiming delivery slots for its Airbus A321neo aircraft in the upcoming years.
This move is reportedly aimed at leveraging a possible order from United Airlines, particularly in light of the carrier’s reservations regarding the Boeing 737 MAX 10.
Airbus to Sell United Aircraft Slots
According to sources familiar with the matter, as reported by Bloomberg, the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus is actively seeking to repurchase delivery slots from both airlines and lessors for its widely favored Airbus A321neo.
This initiative aligns with United Airlines’ public stance against Boeing’s 737 MAX 10, citing concerns about its delayed delivery schedule.
United Airlines holds the distinction of being the launch customer for the Boeing 737 MAX 10, having ordered 277 aircraft with an option for an additional 200.
This significant commitment has solidified a close association between United and the aircraft type, making it potentially challenging to alter the arrangement due to the complexities of the existing contract.
In simpler terms, shifting to an Airbus A321neo order might not be a straightforward process for United Airlines.
Concerns with 737 MAX 10
However, despite the inherent difficulties, United has not refrained from expressing concerns about the Boeing 737 MAX 10 publicly.
During a recent conference call, Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby disclosed that the airline is reviewing its order for the Boeing 737 MAX 10. He emphasized the challenge of omitting the type from fleet planning due to uncertainties surrounding its delivery timeline, stating:
“We’ll be working on what that means exactly with Boeing. But Boeing is not going to be able to meet their contractual deliveries on at least many of those airplanes. And I’ll just leave it at that.”
These apprehensions raised by Kirby come at a precarious time for Boeing, grappling with repercussions from the recent Alaska Airlines incident involving a Boeing 737 MAX 9. The incident, where a door plug blew open midair, causing uncontrolled cabin decompression, has added to the overall scrutiny faced by Boeing. In an interview with CNBC, Kirby remarked:
“The Max 9 grounding is probably the straw that broke the camel’s back for us.”
United Airlines is expressing concerns about Boeing’s significant delays in its delivery schedule. According to Kirby, the initial deliveries of Boeing 737 MAX 10 aircraft might be postponed by up to five years, potentially starting in 2025.
There is a likelihood of additional delays due to the pending certification of the aircraft. However, it was reported in November that the manufacturer had received clearance to conduct test flights ahead of certification.
In addressing how United intends to mitigate the impact on its fleet plans, Kirby stated:
“Well, we’re in the early stages of the planning process so that we will see. But it likely means adjustments to the order books, considering alternative airplanes instead of MAX 10s, at least for the next few years. This probably implies that our growth won’t be as rapid as initially anticipated.”
Engaging in discussions with leasing companies and airlines to secure slots for potential offerings to United Airlines would represent a notable advancement for Airbus, although the company is currently thriving.
Convincing United Airlines, a steadfast Boeing customer despite operating over 100 Airbus A320 family aircraft, to place additional orders would be a significant accomplishment for Airbus.
However, the task of finding available delivery slots poses a considerable challenge. The Airbus A321neo program has garnered a total of 6171 orders worldwide, with over 1200 deliveries completed, according to order and delivery data provided by Airbus.
United Airlines has placed orders for a total of 180 Airbus A321 aircraft, including 130 Airbus A321neos and 50 Airbus A321XLRs, with four Airbus A321neos currently in service as of the latest information.
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