Airbus has played down the potential threat from Boeing's new 737 Max and its proposed 777 successor project.

Speaking in London today at the unveiling of Airbus's 2011 20-year global market forecast, the airframer's chief operating officer customers John Leahy poured scorn on the commitment claims made for Boeing's re-engined single-aisle which rivals the A320neo: "I hear from my competitor that he's got 496 potential commitments - I can't for the life of me figure out where they are - other than American Airlines," he said.

Airbus has taken orders and commitments for 1,200 A320neos so far, and Leahy played down the likelihood of many more deals this year. "There aren't a lot of new campaigns running, but we will have a lot of work to do between now and the end of the year to finish up what we've already sold."

Regarding the threat that the 737 Max could offer to the A320, Leahy said that much of the aircraft's specification is undefined, making it hard to assess: "I don't quite know what it is right now. There is no fan diameter size, engine thrust size, take-off weight or empty weight, or take-off performance. As soon as they write a spec and decide what the airplane is, then I'll have some comments on it. But I can't comment on something that doesn't exist. And that's another reason why they're having trouble getting anybody to commit to it."

As for the growing speculation that Boeing is working on a major update of the 777-300ER to tackle the largest A350 variant, the A350-1000, Leahy said: "I think imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and the fact that after we announced our A350-1000 Boeing feels the need to update their 777-300ER says to me that we got it right."

He dismissed suggestions that the upgrades announced by Airbus for the A350-1000 at the Paris air show in June had met with a lukewarm reception, despite the very public criticism of the changes by launch customers Qatar Airways and Emirates.

"Some people like to negotiate in the press and some people like to negotiate in a conference room," said Leahy. "I think you'll see a lot of sales for the A350-1000."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news