The head of aircraft lessor Air Lease thinks Boeing must develop an aircraft to counter long-range versions of Airbus’s A321neo, saying the US airframer’s ability to regain competitive footing will become tougher with time.
“We all agree that Boeing has a handicap against the A321,” Air Lease executive chair Steven Udvar-Hazy says on 17 November during the Skift Aviation Forum conference. “Boeing needs to come up with something that is competitive with the A321 – and better than the A321.”
Udvar-Hazy’s comments revive the long-running question about how Boeing addresses the empty competitive space sitting between its 737 Max and 787 – the so-called “mid-market”.
Airbus has succeeded in that space by developing two longer-range versions of its A321neo – the 4,000nm (7,408km)-range A321LR and in-development 4,700nm-range A321XLR.
None of Boeing’s Max variants have comparable range.
Udvar-Hazy thinks Boeing’s conundrum becomes more acute over time as Airbus sells and delivers more of the long-range A321neo variants. Airlines that commit to the Airbus models will need convincing to jump to a new Boeing jet, Udvar-Hazy says.
“By the time the [new Boeing] airplane comes out, you are going to have maybe 3,000 A321neos” in service, he says. “The longer Boeing waits, the more the A321neo will penetrate the markets… Then it is much more difficult to make that transition”.
Boeing chief executive David Calhoun has hinted that his company is evaluating a new mid-market jet. But Boeing has flirted with such a project for years and has yet to pull the trigger. Analysts generally suspect the sweet spot for a new Boeing mid-market jet would be one with capacity for about 250 passengers and up to 5,000nm of range.