Two key battles for market share have begun in the important Japanese market: between Airbus and Boeing for mainline orders and between Bombardier and Embraer in the regional jet sector. These contests are expected to keep the world's manufacturers busy for much of 2003.

Airbus and Boeing recently began fighting for a single-aisle order at All Nippon Airways (ANA) that is expected to cover firm orders for around 45 aircraft, for both replacement and growth purposes. Together with widebody aircraft that ANA may also order in 2003, some estimate that Airbus and Boeing could ultimately sell about 200 aircraft to the carrier.

It is not the only competition that Airbus and Boeing are expected to fight in Japan in 2003. The two manufacturers expect ANA rival Japan Airlines (JAL), which recently acquired Japan Air System (JAS), to issue a similar request for proposals soon.

Sources say it will probably cover about 70 single-aisle aircraft, which together with the ANA contest will make Japan an important battleground for the year while the industry remains depressed in many other parts of the world.

Meanwhile, Bombardier and Embraer are pushing for sales of their own in Japan and may see some successes in 2003. Alongside its negotiations with Airbus and Boeing, ANA is considering a sizeable order for regional jets that could determine which of the manufacturers takes a dominant position in Japan, which is seen as a key developing market for regional services.

The ANA competition and impending JAL contest could ultimately result in a major shift between the four airframe makers in terms of market share in Japan. For Airbus, an order from ANA is considered extremely important for future growth, but also simply to maintain market share in Japan, where Boeing dominates. Airbus holds only about 20% of the market, with aircraft flying with ANA and JAS.

The market-share battle is equally intense in Japan between Bombardier and Embraer. Bombardier is the only manufacturer to have regional jets flying in Japan, with JAL subsidiary J-Air and ANA partner Fair Inc.

It has also built up a dominant position in the country's turboprop market, with ANA recently ordering the Bombardier de Havilland Dash 8 Q400 turboprop for ANK, which is already a Q300 operator.

But with ANA now looking at a sizeable order for 80- to 110-seat regional jets, Embraer in particular will be fighting hard to place aircraft in Japan. It recently appointed trading house Marubeni as its agent in the country, and is conducting an intense sales campaign to win its first orders.

Source: Airline Business