Monday, April 7, 2014

The Marooning of The A350-900

This is an Airline Tale of great complexity, "The Marooning of the A350-900". The corporate wise guys from Airbus have marooned the A350-900 as the stand alone champion in the wide body market. Customers are rapidly shifting flagships over to other options. Boeing's Other Options, known as (BOO) has scared many Airbus' customers to a wider offering, fitting Boeing orders into its complex market niches. What has BOO done? It has shrink the A350-800 down to 34 on order as Boeing keeps selling both the 777X's and 787 family of aircraft. The Airbus sycophants (customers) move A350-8's orders up a class to the 900's, fattening that order book through its customer loyalty impulse. Customers own markets have no fit with the A350-900 since the A350-800 can't cut it, it goes ahead and absorbs an A350-900 instead. Route adjustments fall on customers of Airbus. This could bring on thin route condition where the former   A350-800 order turned A50-900 may have half empty airplanes flying those same routes once marketed for the A350-800.

That condition has left the A350-900 marooned in the wide body world as its fleet family members can't hold its oars against Boeing's family of aircraft, Airbus is marooned on "A350 Island". "But what about the A350-1000 who has a comparable order book with the Boeing 787-10?" The answer is, "exactly my point!" In less time that the A350-1000 has been offered, the 787-10, the 777-8 and the 777-9 have amassed a staggering number of sales for all classes which is more than easily twice the A350-1000 number of orders. It leaves the A350-9 marooned to fight the sales "Air War Battle" in the market place. In fact, the customer’s order for the A350-1000 has weak numbers, even though it has had multi-year head start on both the 787-10 and the 777X family.

Airbus is pondering what to do with its A333-300 as it considers going for a NEO platform or kill the A350-800 program. What a choice before them! If they kill the A350-800, then Airbus will have lost the plastic wars. If they reinvent the A330, then it means they take a step back and are pretenders in the plastic wars. Airbus may consider adding extra floors on top on its offices, just for jumping purposes. They biffed it big. It’s back to national pride of three countries to pull this out of the dumpster. Today (literally) Airbus is flying around in its only viable A350-9 model with Airbus employees, testing cup holders and footstools which are placed on board a fully plushed out A350. That A350 fancy seats makes it look like the 787. The dumbed down operating systems convince buyers it’s a safer way to go with little performance penalties. The 787 has developed a safety record exceeding expectation for a new aircraft of its complexity via FAA audit.

Airbus is marooned, with no help coming during the next decade. They half-heatedly threw in on the A350-row boat. They can't figure out how to inflate sales numbers upward to get off the island. The A350-800 chamber has sprung a leak and is now down to 34 units under 787 pressure. Love for Airbus is blind, they still have suitors with 34 on order for the A350-800.

When judging its one trick pony, the A350-900, you sense the staff is huddling in one corner of that Toulouse building. Yes, they have a preponderance of A350-900 on order, but it’s not a one size fits all aircraft. Many of those orders rolled forward from former A350-800 class of orders. Thus marooning the plastic order book, and making it a marooned one trick pony in France and Germany.

What is missing in most discussions of who should buy from Boeing or Airbus, is the value indicator discussions. Those discussions on value hold equally with the fuel economy. The Boeing family of aircraft hold more value. First for its flying customers and second value for its on-ground operations. Boeing has imbued a tremendous amount of value into its aircraft. Airbus does offer a lot of add-on bling to its frame as illusions of something new is happening on board. But it isn't happening at the level Boeing has achieved. The never before implemented advanced systems on the Boeing has lived up to its promise, and can't be matched at this time. Closely monitoring the Airbus statements, they are careful to, "never say that they have something advanced of Boeing". That is a strange observation for an all "New" Airbus aircraft. They have nothing forward and beyond Boeing. The fact of the matter is the main difference of how they assemble with plastic panels on a frame, as Boeing rolls out single unit barrels with internal frames as part of the barrel design. All other differences are not advancements for Airbus, but it is the best they can do on short notice technology. Marooned again at the drawing board.

The only thing that would rescue Airbus in this quandary is scrap the A350-800, scrap the A330 Neo idea, and build something all new while the A350-900 still has an order book. That will get them (Airbus) off the "Island".