Before getting to the meat of things, a couple of key stories:
Mobile Press-Register, June 30. Details of the plan.
Wall Street Journal: Boeing complains.
It’s now one of the worst-kept industrial secrets: Airbus will announce at 10am CDT July 2 that it will construct a $600m A320 Family Final Assembly Line (FAL) in Mobile (AL).
This is a major strategic and tactical move in the intense, often bitter competition between Airbus and Boeing.
Even before the plans became official, Boeing issued a pissy slam, harking back to the World Trade Organization dispute, rather than stating that it is in a position to compete against Airbus and its A320 with what Boeing otherwise routinely characterizes a better airplane with the best workers in the world.
Perhaps the pissy statement was chosen because in many respects, Airbus has mouse-trapped Boeing—and there is very little the company can do about it.
Before explaining, here are some facts to keep in mind. Click on the graphic to enlarge.
Japan’s All Nippon Airlines, the launch customer of the Boeing 787, said yesterday that the new, high-tech airplane is the enabler that prompted it to schedule its first service from Tokyo to Seattle.
Never mind that initial service begins in August with the Boeing 777-300ER and the 787 service won’t begin until October (ironically, with a 787 that will be delivered in August).
The seeming contradiction is explained by an initial summer-time surge in passenger demand that makes the 777 a viable start. Seattle is a highly seasonal market and the smaller-capacity and more fuel efficient 787 is what makes the 787 the preferred choice, ANA said during a celebratory event yesterday.
ANA will need all the advantages it can get from the 787′s lower fuel burn. The airline will be challenging giants Delta Air Lines and United Airlines on the routes. Delta operates the Airbus A330-300, a highly efficient airplane, and United uses the 777-200ER. Each has a good feeder system to Seattle and each has a good hub in Tokyo.
ANA, which like United, is a member of the Star Alliance, terminates its service in Seattle but it has a much better hub than UAL and DAL in Tokyo. It’s counting on the beyond-Tokyo strength to support its route. The daily traffic is 1,000 passengers but only 200 are between Seattle and Tokyo.
ANA’s 787s now is service are the heavy-spec ones with Rolls-Royce engines that initially have not been up to spec. Even so, the 787s are 21% more fuel efficient than ANA’s Boeing 767-300ERs, the airline said. ANA did not offer a comparison vs its 777s.
This is really reaching. Is this really the best Boeing can do?
Airbus to Mobile: The New York Times reports that Airbus is gearing up to announce plans to build the A320 in Mobile (AL). We reported this prospect during our reporting from the Airbus Innovation Days last month. Bloomberg has this take.
A350: No doubts at Airbus. But the margins are probably gone to first flight and EIS. Airbus is sticking to its schedule of EIS by mid-2014; we think it will slip into early 2015.
Update, June 28, 10am PDT:
We can confirm that as of this moment, EADS/Airbus has not made the decision to establish a final assembly site in Mobile. We think we have a reasonably clear understanding of the situation that leads us to believe an affirmative decision is near. It is our belief that any FAL will follow along the lines that were discussed for the KC-30/45 FAL: build the parts within the current supply chain and ship to Mobile for final assembly. This follows the well-established FAL model for Hamburg, Toulouse and Tianjin.
We received some speculation that this FAL might be fore the A330 P2F conversation. We don’t see a business case for this. Our focus is entirely on the A320 family and the intense competition with the 737 family. Note we do not distinguish between ceo/NG and neo/MAX.