Last year at this time the C Series was not given much respect by the big OEMs. This was not just focused on the aircraft, but the sub 150-seat market. Airbus had the perfect solution for that segment in the A319neo. Boeing was upsizing its MAX7 to 150 seats because there was no interest in the ~130 seat version that was currently sold as the 737-700.
Here we are a year later. What a difference.
The MAX7 first flight has occurred. No new customers for it though. Though Southwest has bravely committed to the aircraft in the future. (Southwest, in our view, have not committed beyond four Max7s as they deferred the rest. Typically the deferral of such an order is made to consider one’s options. At this stage we bet that most if not all those MAX7s are converted in the future) Westjet has also made supportive noises.
Then we had the ITC case where Boeing claimed the C Series was a threat to its 737 program. Boeing said the C Series was a threat to the MAX7. The ITC (and the rest of the world outside the Boeing orbit) found that claim questionable. Particularly given that there are so few MAX7 orders. Boeing clearly thought the 100-150 seat segment was very important. But it seemed only to think this after it nearly lost an order at United and was unable to provide Delta with a solution.
The sub-150 seat market is now of much greater interest to Airbus and Boeing as they reach down to Bombardier and Embraer respectively. We expect to see Airbus include the C Series in its offerings at Farnborough. We understand the collaboration is going very well. The Boeing tie-up with Embraer is taking more time.
At the summer air show, we expect to see both Airbus and Boeing rediscover the 100-150 seat segment. How they will talk about it will be of great interest. How big do they see it now? 4,000 or 5,000 or 6,000? Remember this wasn’t a market worth talking about much last year.
What is the takeaway? Bombardier and Embraer were right all along. There is a big market between 100-150 seats. It is worth over 4,000 replacements. Add to that number because airlines are seeing that right-sizing is logical and that up-sizing is not the panacea it was made out to be. There are literally thousands of routes that require smaller jets to serve efficiently. The new generation from Bombardier and Embraer allow this, whereas the MAX7 and A319neo could not.
Moreover, as we have seen with the 787, aircraft with long range and small seat counts can open new markets. That is why the range of the C Series and the E2 are key features. These new small jets can (and will) create new markets too.
It seems like the past twelve months were rather transformative.