Airbus vs Boeing: Battle between rivals across the pond rages on in Singapore

The mercury in Singapore isn’t the only thing that’s rising.

The epic transatlantic rivalry between the two juggernauts, Airbus and Boeing, is set to hot up in the coming months as they fill up their order books to satisfy the demand for airline seats from a travel-hungry public, eager to make up for lost time, shackled by Covid-19.

Right now, the ‘battlefield’ is in Singapore, at Singapore Airshow 2024.

Boeing fired the opening salvo on Tuesday – on the first day of the show – when it announced an order for 45 787 Dreamliner aircraft from Thai Airways.

In addition to the 45 Dreamliners for Thai, Boeing also announced an order for four of the twin-aisled, twin-engined aircraft, from Royal Brunei Airlines.

Boeing did not provide a dollar value for the deals. At list prices, the Thai order would be worth US$13.16 billion, but customers usually get a discount when making bulk aircraft orders.

This is likely more of a ‘psychological’, yet important victory for Boeing, which is still reeling from the two very deadly, and very public crashes in 2018 and 2019 of the then-newest member of its line-up, the ultra-modern 737 MAX. The two crashes claimed the lives of 346 people.

The crashes were attributed mainly to problems with the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System, or MCAS. As a result of the two crashes, the 737 MAX fleet was grounded worldwide, and Boeing was ordered to fix the problem with the MCAS and other issues with the airplane. The 737 MAX resumed commercial flights in the United States in December 2020, and was recertified in Europe and Canada by January 2021.

The accidents and grounding cost Boeing an estimated US$20 billion in fines, compensation, and legal fees, with indirect losses of more than US$60 billion from 1,200 cancelled orders.

Lately, Boeing has been in the public subconscious again, and all for the wrong reasons. On Jan 5 of this year, Alaskan Airlines Flight 1282 was climbing after takeoff when a door plug blew out at 16,000 feet. The aircraft suffered an explosive decompression but managed to land safely. No lives were lost.

The fact that the aircraft was a Boeing 737 MAX 9 reignited public concerns over the type’s safety, and prompted some observers to ask: “Just what exactly is going on over at Boeing?”

The Federal Aviation Administration ordered 171 MAX 9 planes, including those operated by Alaska and United Airlines, to be grounded for inspections. Alaska Airlines announced that it had cancelled 170 flights that following Sunday, affecting 25,000 passengers.

Boeing’s CEO, David Calhoun, called for a companywide meeting to address the company’s response to this, and other safety concerns at all its assembly plants – in Everett and Renton in Washington state, and Charlottesville, North Carolina.

A preliminary report on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, released on Feb 6 by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), states that four bolts that prevented the upward movement of the door plug were missing.

Jennifer Homendy, NTSB chair, was quoted as saying: “There is no way that this plane should have been delivered with four safety critical bolts missing. There’s a problem in the process.”

With these issues looming over Boeing’s head like a thundercloud, observers were not surprised to find the two ‘big names’ in Boeing’s stable, not part of the static, and flying displays. Conspicuously missing at Singapore Airshow 2024 are the 737 MAX, and the challenger to Airbus’ A350-1000 – the Boeing 777X.

Both the A350-1000 and the 777X are vying for a slice of the very lucrative long haul, high-capacity market. The A350 has been in service for close to a decade, while the 777X, which is still undergoing developmental flight testing, has been beset by problems and delays. It was originally supposed to enter service this year but will most likely debut next year.

Tagged with: