Boeing CEO Jim McNerney says the Airbus A320neo and its more than 300 commitments are doing more harm to the Bombardier CSeries than to the company's Boeing's 737.

The company's chief executive says A320neo orders to date have come from existing A320 family customers, suggesting that Airbus's strategy of minimal changes to the airframe has not unlocked the narrowbody market to a significant enough degree erode the existing 737 customer base.

"I'm just observing that we haven't seen any switch of our current customer base, which is large and deep," says McNerney. "Haven't seen any switch to the NEO. Haven't seen any serious conversations yet about switching to the NEO and haven't seen any erosion in our backlog. Most of the actions so far on the NEO has been within Airbus's customer base and within some 'jump balls' between the Bombardier airplane and the NEO."

The 110-to-149 seat Bombardier CS100 and CS300 will enter service in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

McNerney believes that the prospect of an all-new jetliner replacing the 737 would serve as a deterrent to its own customers ordering the Airbus jet that aims to be 15% more fuel efficient than today's A320 family aircraft.

"The NEO will not seriously erode our customer base if there is a new airplane out there three or four years after [Airbus] introduces a re-engine," he says.

The A320neo includes a choice of either Pratt & Whitney PW1100G or CFM International Leap-X engine and will enter service in October 2015.

"I think my personal view is that we're not going to lose customers for a few years with a significantly better airplane in the offing and a continually improved airplane in their fleet today," McNerney adds. "So, just to jump to a new aircraft engine type, that doesn't make sense if you're an operator. But that's the judgment we have to validate as we go through this."

Any new airplane, he says, will address the "heart of the market" centring around 145 to 185 seats, likely ruling out a twin-asile solution to replace the larger 201-seat 757-200.

He quickly adds "which is not to say that we will leave the [757] space unaddressed at all because it's a legitimate market segment that we can participate in".

McNerney says it is improbable that Boeing will undertake a dual 737 re-engining and new narrowbody strategy, saying "I think the logic goes, if you're offering a new plane just a few years after your competitor is offering a re-engined plane and you are already continually improving what you got, that step does not need to be taken."

Boeing plans to announce a more concrete indication about its plans for the narrowbody at June's Paris Air Show, and McNerney says that by the close of 2011 the airframer will give its customers and suppliers "the direction they need" to ready for implementation of its strategy.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news