Boeing admits that it is feeling the pressure from its rival as Airbus tries to clear out its inventory of current-generation A330s ahead of transitioning to the re-engined A330neo family from 2017.
“Our competitor is aggressively trying to market and sell current A330s, as well as the A330neo, and clearly have more ability to deliver airplanes than there is demand in the market place,” says John Wojick, Boeing’s senior vice president for global sales and marketing.
“So they’re trying to push aircraft into the market place.”
Boeing has secured net orders for 34 787s so far this year, compared with 35 A330s. “We’re still seeing strong demand for 787,” says Wojick.
Interest is picking up in the largest model, the 787-10, which has a fairly quiet time after a flurry of orders at the launch during the Paris air show two years ago. “We’re seeing lots of interest from existing -8 and -9 customers converting to -10s in the 2019-2-20 timeframe,” says Wojick.
“The biggest drawback when selling 787s right now is we don’t have any availability until out towards the end of the decade. That’s one of the reasons you don’t see higher sales of 787s currently,” he adds.
Wojick cites this lack of slots as being “a big issue” when the 787 lost out to the A330neo in the Delta Air Lines campaign last year, as the US carrier “wanted airplanes sooner than we had availability at the time”.
This is an issue that Boeing has no easy answer to, he adds.
“We don’t have the ability to go up in rate any faster than the 14 [a month] we’re projecting at the end of the decade – which is the highest production rate of a widebody ever. So people are just going to have to wait a little bit.”
Wojick says that some earlier slots have been freed up through customers pushing back deliveries, which has allowed Boeing to accelerate or place some incremental deliveries in the near term, “but those are few and far between”.
At the top end of its widebody product line, Boeing is working the transition between the current 777-300ER and the new 777X, deliveries of which are due to begin in 2020.
“We feel pretty good about bridging from 777 to 777X and if we can continue to sell 50 to 60 airplanes per year we should be able to accomplish that,” says Wojick.
Output of the 777 is currently running at 8.3 aircraft per month, and there has been speculation that Boeing may have to cut the rate in the transition between the two models. While declining to discuss specific production rate plans, Wojick says Boeing feels “pretty good about having sold what we intend to produce next year and we’ll go from there”.
He adds: “We haven’t finalised our production and ramp plan for 777X yet so we have not finalised specifically when that last 777-300ER will be, but it will be beyond 2021.”