After the Airbus neo Technical Briefing in Toulouse, France, today, AirInsight had a chance to speak with Mr Leahy in his office. We had a few questions we wanted to hear his views on.
- The 100-149 seat market. Boeing seems to be focusing on a sweet spot on 180 seats and up, Embraer has an idea but won’t make a move until Boeing decides what it is going to do and Bombardier has committed to this segment with its CSeries. What is Airbus’ view on this segment?
“We have no intention of abandoning that and despite all the comments you are hearing out of Seattle, I can’t imagine that they will abandon that market. That’s the market that brought them the 737-300, the 737-700, that’s our A319, our A320, their 737-800 market. They would abandon that at their peril. We have no intention of abandoning that market. I’m afraid Bombardier is going to have to wait a little bit longer to get their wish. ”
“We certainly could consider the geared turbofan for the A350 – if Pratt & Whitney propose it. They haven’t yet. I know they have looked at airplanes in that category. I am not averse to being sole sourced to Rolls-Royce. De facto we are right now and it is selling very well in the marketplace. As you said the 777-300ER and -200LR are sole sourced with our friends in Cincinnati. So although our normal preference is to have two engines to offer everywhere, it is certainly workable to have one engine as we have today. The question is do you have acceptable engines and do you have acceptable deals? If Pratt wants to propose an engine on the A350 program we’d certainly look at it. If Rolls wants to give us reasons to go exclusively with them, we’d certainly take a look at that too.
- The A350-1000 – we hear consideration of growing the airplane to 380 seats and pushing the range to handle DXB-LAX year round to better compete with the 777-300ER.
“The idea of making a bigger A350 doesn’t appeal to me at all. Right now it depends on layout and layout is very important. The 777-300 has 15 more seats or they’re equal; it depends on 3 class, 4 class, 2 class configuration, etc. So I’m not unhappy with the size. It’s the range payload that we want to be at least equal to or better than the 777-300ER. We want to have the same or better range, we want to have the same or better payload, and essentially the seat count where we are today. That might require slightly more thrust than we have, a little bit more takeoff weight than we have right now. You’ve heard Tim Clark and others suggest that we look into that. That’s exactly what we are looking into. That airplane comes out in a few years, we haven’t finished the final definition phase on the airplane but I wouldn’t be surprised to see more thrust and takeoff weight where we would be able to offer the range and payload of the 777-300ER with 25% lower fuel burn. That would be unstoppable in the market.“
- Oil prices are high and this is the second price shock in recent times. But you gave a great sound bite today – you’re selling 100 NEOs per month. How are airlines handling the tradeoff? High fuel costs hurt but airlines need to get more efficient airplanes in their fleets.
“Ultimately if the airlines don’t go bankrupt, the higher the fuel prices the more they realize they need to have the most modern most fuel efficient aircraft available. That is exactly what happened during the last oil crisis. Airlines were losing money, that’s true but they realized that those classic 737s, some of the MD-80s – all the MD-80s, DC-9s, airplanes like that which are still flying today in revenue service just aren’t viable when fuel is at $120 to $150 per barrel. So although it’s painful for the airlines, I think it’s good for them long term because it accelerates the replacement of old fuel inefficient and environmentally damaging ancient aircraft. The faster we get those out of the fleet the better.”