16 February 2014

Airbus' 3 challenges by Aboulafia

Based on the opinion-article that aerospace consultant Richard Aboulafia has published in Aviation Week, Airbus faces 3 particular challenges:

First, it must decide how best to compete with Boeing’s 787-8/9 for long, thin international routes. For years, Airbus has relied on its A350-800 to compete in this class, but over the past year, the orderbook for this variant has fallen by about half. Given the weakness of the A350-800 orderbook, Airbus may be facing a simple choice: Reengine the A330 despite the costs, or lose the 220-300-seat segment to Boeing.

Airbus’s 2nd challenge is decide whether or not to rescue the A380. Airbus must decide whether it needs an “A380neo” to keep Emirates satisfied or should focus on expanding the A380 customer base beyond the current level.

Airbus’s 3rd—and certainly largest—product-line challenge is to develop a response to Boeing’s 777-9X. With the A350-1000 limited to 350 seats, it’s clear that Boeing’s 407-seat 777-9X will be the largest and most capable twinjet on the market. While a further stretch of the A350 fuselage is possible, it would need a new engine as well as wing and tail modifications. Even then, a notional “A350-1100” is not likely to match the 777-9X’s capabilities. An all-new big twin would be optimal, but quite expensive.

All of these challenges are emerging at a difficult moment in Airbus’s history. On the positive side, it is being reformed under CEO Tom Enders into more of a private-sector company, moving away from government ownership and influence.

Given the requirements of funding the A350 and A320neo, Airbus isn’t likely to have the resources to fund both an A330neo and A380neo and a new large twin, too.

When these factors are taken into account, the market picture for the next decade or so becomes clear. Airbus may have a slight advantage in single aisles, but Boeing’s twin-aisle product line superiority implies a 55% market share by value across the board, assuming it can execute as planned on the 777X and 787-10. The odds are heavily against Airbus’s finding the resources to compete in the 360-450-seat twinjet segment for the next 10 years.
In short, Airbus will be paying the price for the A380 for many years to come.

Based on the article “Airbus Twin-Aisles—Big Needs, Limited Means” by Richard Aboulafiapublished in Aviation Week.


  1. This article take the assumption that Boeing is right with all their aircraft and Airbus has to "match" every aircraft capabilities.

    I think it's a very naive statement.

    Lot of thing can happen making the choice made by Boeing or Airbus more relevant.

  2. Don´t take his statements too seriously, he is well-known for his "Airbus-Bashing".

  3. I concur - there's obviously a reason why some refer to him as abu-laugh-ia, a pretty well known airbus basher - it ain't over until the fat lady sings

  4. This guy is the master of spin and rhetoric for those who do not understand the industry. He states and tries convince to the reader that the Boeing has the "superior product" (an unfounded underlying assumption) and takes it from there. The 787 proved to be everything except a superior product thus far and really needs no further discussion.The 777-x is still on paper. When it is all set and done, Being needed to invest into three 787 models to compete with the A350-900 and two 777-x models to compete with the A350-1000. In their minds, the A350 was trapped. Like the old saying goes "if they are kicking you from behind or try to trap you from the front, it is because you are better and moving ahead". A pack of hyenas trying to surround the lion.

    The 777-8x will become a low volume niche airplane and will likely only replace the poor-selling 777-200LR's. The 777-9x will likely replace 747-400's. The A350-1000 will likely swallow and replace the 777-300ER.

  5. I think it might be wise for Boeing to reconsider the 777X spec while they can. 400 seats long haul is a niche. 17 Inch long haul width and mini F & J seats to back up that seat-count is marketing deception.

    Then the 777-8X doesn’t look very hot. Less seats, 20t extra OEW over the A350 for routes no one wants to fly. Why even go there?

    Maybe Boeing should consider skipping the 777-8X and add a 777-10X to prevent the 777X series becoming a one trick pony. There is time to optimize the wing, landing gear and GE9X for that.

    Boeing should offer a more realistic replacement for the 747s and facilitate credible long haul cabin comfort, not 737 seats.


    rgds keesje

  6. First, Airbus would like to abandon the full A330neo (XWB like engine and design changes) and will focus on 242t version and regional with MTOW 199t. R-R propose to improve the engine (Trent 700EP2) at the same size. A350-800 will to have a regional version (199t also?). A350-800 is 14% more expensive per seat than A330-300 now (2014). When A330 program ends, price will drops and will come new life for A350-800.

    2nd: A380neo is more important and prestigious. To satisfied Emirates AND expanding program. A380-900 will be back? Common engine with A350-800 will help (lower weight and size).

    3rd: A350-1000 has officially 369 seat. 777-9X - 400 it's only 9% more. But will be around 15% heavier. What is it about efficiency? 189 orders for -1000 means only 23% of all A350 orders, 70% is for -900. Is really a need to enlarge? Especially if you will have A380neo. Maybe one frame stretch at the end of "design close" only for all the doubters.

  7. WSJ suggests Boeings next territory is 757 - so Airbus, how about taking A350 fuselage and systems and (as it is panelised) optimise skins, and fit smaller fuselage to smaller wing and go after this lower part of the market - say 757 to 787. Thats a pricey option that doesnt address the top end of the market.

    I think the marriage to A330 neo and A380 with PW Geared turbofans is more realistic if they can pull it off!