The US DoT published its latest T-100 August update.  This allows us to update our Middle of the Market model. Typically these models are subscriber-only. But we decided to share this one because it demonstrates two important data points: (1) the 757 is losing to the A321 in a big way, and (2) Boeing has to get a move on with the NMA.  Press the play button at the bottom left of the model to watch the action.

Notice how the A321ceo became the largest MoM player since 2010.  The ball size is driven by the number of passengers.  This was because of American and Delta adding it to their fleets.  Even though Delta and United operate large fleets of 737-900s, the A321ceo has eclipsed them in the number of flights.  Note, though, the 737-900ER is used on slightly longer segments.

The decline in the 767-300 and 757-200/300 is clear. The remaining 757and 767s appear to be niche aircraft in the US domestic market.  Longer international flights are where we see them increasingly deployed.  But that too is going to be shortlived as the A321neo makes its impact.

Driven mainly by the Hawaiian fleet now, we see that the A321neo is already serving longer domestic segments than either the 757 or 767-300.  Indeed, the A321neo is averaging stage lengths of 58% greater distance than the A321ceo. In making this giant leap in stage length, the A321neo is mimicking what we see with the A330neo compared to the A330ceo.

Fleet decisions are long term plays.  As US airlines get comfortable with the A321neo, and soon the A321LR, the market for a smaller NMA tightens considerably.  The MAX9 and MAX10 likely can’t match stage lengths that the A321neo and LR can reach with comparable payloads.  Then there is the larger NMA market, where this notional aircraft creeps into the market where the 787-8 trades.  The A330neo also is in this space, a well-understood aircraft (i.e. low risk).

As we have seen recently with the MAX, but previously with other aircraft (i.e. SSJ), fleet managers’ best play is to take the lowest risk.  In a simple trade-off between higher fuel burn vs higher technology, a higher fuel burn may be the lower risk (better) choice.  Of course, the trade-offs are not simple and not fuel burn focused. OEMs always price to the point of economic indifference.

It appears, at this stage, that Delta is following the lowest risk middle of the market fleet deployment among the US big three.  Which is interesting because its president is a vocal NMA proponent.  American opted for the 787-8 at the upper end and the A321neo at the lower end.  United has decided, so far, on an all Boeing solution.  Between these three airlines, we have a mix of possible combinations.  How this plays out in terms of reliable operations and costs will be of great interest.

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Co-Founder AirInsight. My previous life includes stints at Shell South Africa, CIC Research, and PA Consulting. Got bitten by the aviation bug and ended up an Avgeek. Then the data bug got me, making me a curious Avgeek seeking data-driven logic. Also, I appreciate conversations with smart people from whom I learn so much. Summary: I am very fortunate to work with and converse with great people.

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