11 October 2013

How Airbus worked out the contract with JAL. Getting JAL management to develop confidence in the A350 XWB, based on personal trust.

"This goes beyond an order for 31 A350s," Bregier said in an interview from Tokyo. "It's a major event. Japan is a country where personal relations are essential. I've spent more time there than in any other market."

30 years after he began his business career selling aluminum in Japan, Bregier logged 50.000 miles on 4 trips to Tokyo in his first year as Airbus CEO.

Bregier in December/2012 made his first 13-hour flight to meet JAL executives in his new capacity as CEO and also secured an audience with future prime minister, Shinzo Abe. One month later, with the 16/January/2013 grounding of Boeing's rival 787 after 2 battery fires, Bregier stepped up his campaign in an encounter with JAL Chairman Kazuo Inamori at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

At Bregier's side in Switzerland was Stephane Ginoux, Airbus's head of Japan. A Karate expert and fluent Japanese speaker, Ginoux spent 30 years in the country and knew that getting beyond Airbus's 5% market share would require patience and working at relationships. "In Japan, one is judged for duration," Ginoux said in 2011. Ginoux and Bregier where colleagues in Japan 30 years ago working in Eurocopter and on 2010 Ginoux was appointed as Airbus Head in Japan.

By March/2013, Bregier was back in Japan, and he invited a team of JAL experts to Toulouse for visits in May and again in June. JAL CEO Ueki, a former pilot who spent his flying career on Boeings took the chance to try out one of its A380 simulators.

Ueki said he found the Airbus side-mounted joystick control, which differs from the traditional central column found in Boeing cockpits, easy to use.

On September/2013 Bregier joined a flight test demonstrating the full confidence on the A350 and on the team that has been working on it for many years. Showing confidence again.

"The real challenge was getting them to develop confidence in Airbus," Bregier said. "We went to a lot of trouble to really build that confidence, working not just with commercial people, but with management, with engineers, with technical support people, with flight-test crew, who until this point really knew us hardly at all."

“If you believe that from Toulouse, you can convince people here who have flown the competitor for 30, 40 years that you have the best product, then you are just damn wrong,” said Mr. Brégier, referring Airbus’s hometown in France. “The problem wasn’t Japan or Japanese customers. The problem was probably Airbus.”

Based on the article “How Airbus wooed Japan Airlines” published in Bloomberg

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