Odds and Ends: Puzzling math remains puzzling in 737 v A320 debate
Puzzling math remains puzzling: Boeing has said for the better part of two years that the 737-800 is 8% more economical than the Airbus A320 and the advantage translates into leads it claims for the MAX over the NEO. With the addition of the Advanced Technology Winglets (BATW), Boeing now claims the 737 MAX will be a whopping 18% more economical than today’s A320 and up to 10% better than the NEO.
Such claims make Airbus almost apoplectic. Airbus rejects outright Boeing’s 8% claim and further said its own analysis on the MAX (pre-BATW) indicated the best improvement Boeing could get was 8%, not 10%-12%. Airbus also sniffs at the new BATW. Airbus evaluated the design before settling on the sharklets as more advantagous.
We’ve always been skeptical of numbers advanced by Airbus and Boeing because, after all, they are hardly objective. We’ve placed more weight in analyses offered by customers, for obvious reasons: they are the ones who have to operate the aircraft and truly know theory in real life.
We’ve previously written that Lufthansa concluded the 737 MAX will have a 2% advantage over the A320neo (also pre-BATW), which returns the competition to the “status quo.” This means that in Lufthansa’s analysis, today’s airplanes are only 2% apart, not Boeing’s claim of 8%.
Now comes information to us that Qantas–which operates both types through its own airline and the JetStar subsidiary–finds its operating experience to be so close as to be indistinguishable.
So we asked Boeing about that, and about how its methodology comes up with the numbers it advertised. Here’s the response, foregoing addressing the results of the airlines, citing long-standing policy of not commenting on customers. As for the methodology:
[Our analyses] are based on our average vs. Airbus and not individual customer statistics. There are too many variables to be able to address specifics and details.
Our numbers are cost per seat and are based on a 500 nm mission using typical European economic rules for airplanes with two-class seating giving the Next-Generation 737-800w (with PIP – Performance Improvement Package) 162 passengers and the A320 150 passengers.
Fuel burn values are Boeing tested values for the Next-Generation 737 and Boeing estimates for the A320. Maintenance costs are estimated using Boeing methodology which takes into account industry reported data from the FAA and IATA for both manufacturers. Same crew cost, landing and navigation and passenger handling cost models are applied to both airplanes.
We’ll note from our previous discussions with Boeing that Boeing acknowledged factoring in 737 PIPs (as cited above) but not factoring in A320 PIPs. Airbus claims Boeing uses the CFM56 as the base engine for the A320, rather than the V2500, which is 1.5% more efficient. Airbus also claims that Boeing uses older versions of the CFM56 as the A320 base engine rather than the newer, more efficient model. Airbus also uses 800nm vs Boeing’s 500nm for its analysis. (AirInsight’s analysis of US operation confirms that A320s and 737s tend to fly, on average, around 1,100sm, concluding that the longer range assumption is indeed a fairer data point.)
So the puzzling math used by Airbus and Boeing remains puzzling. The airlines say the airplanes are very close. We believe the airlines.
ExIm Bank: Just when we thought this was over, it turns out the Republicans in the US Senate Wednesday blocked a vote to approve reauthorization of the US ExIm Bank and a hike in its ceiling to $140bn. This story has additional detail. Boeing and GE take a hit on this.
Emirates to Boeing on 777X: Get a move on. You’re taking too long.