US Airways' decision to defer 54 Airbus aircraft could help in the European airframer's campaign to win a major order at United Airlines.

The US Airways Airbus deferral deal covers the rescheduling of 2010-12 deliveries to 2013 and beyond, as well as its 22-strong A350 XWB order, first deliveries of which have been pushed back from 2015 to 2017.

The battle between Airbus and Boeing to win United's order for new-generation widebodies has heated up significantly in recent weeks, with United initially leaning toward Airbus. But Boeing has since made a strong case with the 787.

United Airlines A320
 © United Airlines

The lack of early delivery slots has been an ongoing problem for both airframers, with large backlogs for the XWB and 787 programmes, but the US Airways A350-800/900 deferral opens up early delivery XWB positions in 2015 for United.

Boeing has had more than 80 cancellations for the 787 and a number of deferrals. There has been a debate within Boeing whether to release these positions to its sales team to offer to potential customers such as United, or for the production arm to retain the slots as a means to catch up on nearly three years of delays.

It is unknown if this debate has been resolved, or how the decision to set up a second 787 assembly line in Charleston, South Carolina could affect this. At least initially Boeing has been challenged in offering early slots to United.

The now-open 2015 slots for the A350 could be a tipping point in the campaign unless Boeing can do better. As always, pricing and financing offered by both sides will be important.

US Airways will take delivery of just four Airbuses in 2010 - two A320s and two A330-200s, and 24 A320 family aircraft in 2011-12. All its remaining A320 and A330 orders will arrive from 2013, reducing its aircraft capital expenditures over the next three years by roughly $2.5 billion.

Source: Flight International