EL AL, Boeing and Airbus – symbols and emotions

Sometimes, selecting aircraft for an airline can become symbolic. When such a thing happens, the apparently normal competition turns into something clad in heavy emotion – with all the side effects.

This is what happened some 15 years ago, when Israeli airline EL AL thought of breaking the monopoly Boeing has on its fleet by going to Airbus as a second supplier.

This brought pressure from no less than top figures in the US administration at that time.

The US helps Israel fill its defence needs with an annual grant that is being used almost totally to purchase American-made military hardware. This created a situation in which the administration felt comfortable to do everything it could to avoid the Boeing monopoly being broken.

EL AL is a small airline, but for some reason it had become a “symbol” of an airline that operates only Boeing aircraft. Boeing wants to keep that symbol untouched.

In recent years EL AL continued to purchase Boeing aircraft, but from time to time it looked at what the European manufacturer has to offer.

In Toulouse the possibility of breaking the Boeing monopoly has also become a kind of symbolic target. Not only for the money involved in a potential deal, but rather the day Airbus will be able to say “we conquered the Israeli fort”.

The “war” between the manufacturers has heated again in recent months, after Airbus renewed its efforts to persuade EL AL to lease A330s as a gap-filler until the A350 is operational.

In recent weeks officials from Airbus met with senior officials from the Israeli airline.

The Israeli airline had up to 10 options to purchase the Boeing 787, but three years ago gave it up because of the airline’s financial situation. This decision was criticised by many both outside and inside the airline.

In this situation, Airbus sensed a new opportunity to break the Boeing monopoly in the EL AL fleet.

EL AL sources said that one of the proposed deals is based on EL AL Leasing  2-4 A330s directly from Airbus, with an obligation to purchase the manufacturer’s A350 when it gets into service. Sources said that Airbus came with a very detailed proposal aimed at making the interim deal possible.

If EL AL gets into detailed negotiations with Airbus, we can expect another round of pressure from the USA.

When symbols are put in danger, emotions run high.

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