We have posted a few stories about the single aisle bubble. Now it seems there are cracks in delivery slots coming.
Michael O’Leary has an insatiable appetite for 737s. If delivery slots open up, exploiting them will be a card Ryanair has played before. “If additional slots became available in 2017 or 2018 we’d happily take them,” Mr O’Leary said in London. “If Boeing have more cancellations and all of a sudden instead of having oversold their order book they now have unplaced aircraft, I’m sure they’ll come back to us.”
That last comment is especially apropos. Yesterday Qatar’s CEO Akbar Al Baker made a strong statement, again. The threat to walk away from its A320neo order are strong words. Qatar obviously needs single aisle aircraft to create feed for its growing longhaul network. Earlier this year Mr Al Baker remarked about switching to Boeing’s MAX.
So Boeing looks rather comfortable with cracks opening up in its delivery skyline. Almost certainly Ryanair, as a longtime and exclusive customer, gets first bite. Capturing Qatar as a customer annoys Airbus and that has inherent value for Boeing. Even though the whole order at stake is only 50 aircraft, there is value for Boeing.
For Airbus the problem is not exclusively A320neo – they are also behind on Qatar A350 deliveries. But, with only three Qatar A320neos cancelled, the problem is not very big – yet. Airbus is no doubt working very hard to get Qatar what it wants. Other customers have taken A320neos and the aircraft seems to be doing what it is supposed to.
The big loser here actually might be Qatar. There are no Boeing’s to be had quickly. If any appear, Boeing will offer them to Ryanair first, even if discounted to Ryanair’s usual levels. Ryanair is the second biggest biggest 737 user. Qatar will have to wait for any 737s. Almost certainly Airbus will solve the A320neo issues before Boeing could offer any 737s.
Moreover, it might be better to not aggravate Airbus too much in the media. Mr Al Baker has berated Boeing before over the 787 and the 747-8F. So Boeing will no doubt be very careful before jumping at a Qatar opportunity.
If Qatar were as a big a customer as Emirates, then maybe the OEMs would continue to suffer in silence. But we suspect Qatar is playing game where its hand is not as strong as it seems. If Qatar’s bluff is called, don’t be surprised.