Airbus says it lost out to the Boeing 737 Max in the recent campaign at SilkAir due to a lack of early slots rather than any competitive advantage its rival holds over the A320neo. The airframer is confident it will maintain its claimed market share lead in the single-aisle sector.

Airbus chief operating officer for customers John Leahy tells Flightglobal that the loss to Boeing of SilkAir - an existing Airbus A320 operator - was "a disappointment", but was all about its rival having early delivery slots.

In August the Singaporean airline signed an agreement for 68 737s, including orders for 23 737-800s and 31 737-8 Max aircraft along with purchase rights for another 14 aircraft. Deliveries begin in 2014 and the airline will transition to an all-737 fleet by 2021.

"It seems that was one of the advantages of having some early slots. We are sold out and were not able to offer those slots to SilkAir," says Leahy, adding that those A320neo positions were earmarked for the recently announced Philippine Airlines order, which was "a big win" for Airbus.

Leahy dismisses the threat offered by the CFM International Leap-1B-powered 737 Max now that the design is more fully defined. He has dubbed the re-engined derivative the "737 Maxed out", believing that it is not as good as Airbus had feared it would be.

"I'm delighted with what I've heard about the Max. It's much heavier than we thought it would be, the performance isn't as good as we thought it might be. I'm very comfortable we'll maintain 60% of the market in this category."

Leahy's one major concern - highlighted by the SilkAir situation - is the lack of slots. "I just wish I had more Neos to sell," he says.

Source: Flight International