Though outsold by more than five-to-one by the Airbus A321neo to date, the 737 Max 9 remains "well-positioned" in the market, says Boeing vice-president of marketing Randy Tinseth.
In an appearance on 9 February at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA) conference, Tinseth defended the largest member of the re-engined 737 Max family on the same day that the A321neo completed first flight.
"The Max 9 isn't as large but has lower trip-cost as well as lower seat-cost and so that’s a nice combination, and it flies a bit further, so we think we're well-positioned," Tinseth says.
But airlines have ordered only 224 737 Max 9s compared with 1,111 A321neos, according to Flightglobal's Fleets Analyzer.
Tinseth also argues that the smaller 150-180-seat-segment will claim about 60% of the sales in the single-aisle market, where Boeing offers the 737 Max 8 with up to 189 seats and the 737 Max 200 with up to about 196 seats.
He estimates that the 737 Max 9 and A321neo combined will account for about 20-25% of overall demand for single-aisle aircraft over the next 20 years.
So far, the order backlogs of the companies suggest even that could be optimistic. The 1,335 orders split between both types represent only 17.6% of the overall backlog.
Boeing also remains in no rush to plug the gap between the 737 Max 9 and the 787-8, where Airbus today offers the A321neo and the re-engined A330-800.
In the near-term, Boeing is preoccupied with delivering the 737 Max, 787-10 and 777X, Tinseth says.
A year ago, Tinseth had said that a months-long dialogue with customers had found a consensus of demand for a new aircraft in the "middle of the market" with more range and size than a Boeing 757.
But Tinseth says the dialogue with customers has moved on to a new stage.
"I think we're in that process now where we play catch-ball with our customers, and we start looking at options, what you can do and you see how you can do it," Tinseth says.