Putting the latest Wikileaks #AvCablegate cables in context

The latest batch of cables we’ve written about so far:

Diplomatic help swayed Gulf Air to purchase 787s instead of A350s

Saudi king wanted Air Force One-style upgrade in exchange for Boeing winning fleet renewal contract

Boeing’s unlikely most-favourite nation: Turkmenistan?

See our #AvCablegate feature page here.



That governments directly lobby foreign governments to purchase aircraft from their country is not a secret, let alone one we needed Wikileaks to tell us about.

But the latest aviation-related cables released (which we’re following with the #AvCablegate hashtag) should not be disregarded.

They provide insight into the extent of the lobbying, which one US ambassador candidly described as “beyond every-day advocacy”.

The cables also indicate this extended lobbying was not a one-off occurrence or that Boeing wants to keep this status quo, but rather Boeing wants to increase the lobbying. An ambassador quotes a letter from Boeing saying, “The working together activity between you, your team, and Boeing is a model that we should really aspire to replicate in other countries.”

One cable concerning a Gulf Air purchase of 787s shows that Gulf Air was almost ready to sign a deal, but Boeing brushed them off thinking it was a ploy. It was only with State Department advice Boeing took Gulf Air seriously, flew to Bahrain, and inked a deal. You could half-jokingly say the State Department does everything but manufacture the jets.

While Boeing has received the headlines from these cables (they are from the US, after all), there’s no doubt Airbus engages in similar efforts. After hearing Gulf Air was swaying from purchasing A350s to 787s, French president Nicolas Sarkozy offered to add Bahrain to his regional tour if Gulf Air purchased Airbus jets.

Gulf Air went with the 787s in January 2008 and Sarkozy did not visit Bahrain, at which point the cable ends. But that May Gulf Air purchased A330s. With Boeing under-selling the 787, actions that continue to have financial implications for the company, and having to pay Gulf Air delivery delay payments, it’s plausible that Airbus wound up with the better deal by selling Gulf Air tried-and-tested A330s rather than the A350.

Finally, the cables give insight into the purchasing, negotiating, and state play that occurs in an aircraft purchase, a high-end deal kept from the public’s eyes until the order is announced.

If you’re interested in aviation–and being here, I suspect you are–the cables are well worth a read once you put them in context of mainly being informative and not strictly news.

One Response to Putting the latest Wikileaks #AvCablegate cables in context

  1. Uwe 4 January, 2011 at 10:34 pm #

    who is the prime mover pushing beyond factual competition ?
    Looks like the US State Department has to fish for Boeing lost items on a regular basis.
    The “Short Guy” seems to be send into action as a last and final effort to regain unfairly taken market share.

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