Boeing clings to lead over Airbus in long-haul jets

By Luc Olinga, AFP

NEW YORK –Boeing is fighting tough efforts by rival Airbus to score big gains in the market for long-haul jets, a segment of the massive aircraft market that the U.S. giant has dominated.

Neck-and-neck with Boeing in sales of single-aisle, 150-200 passenger jets, Airbus has badly lagged its U.S. archrival in wide-body aircraft with 250-450 seats. But Airbus has high hopes for its new A350, which it says is ��setting a new standard of efficiency in its class�� with a lightweight, carbon fiber composition that can save up to 25 percent in fuel consumption. Airbus believes the A350 can compete with Boeing’s classic 777 aircraft as well as the its heavily-touted 787 Dreamliner, which also boasts carbon fiber construction to cut weight. But Boeing executives say they are confident the U.S. company’s lead will stick. Airbus ��still don’t have the market coverage we do, especially on the upper end of the market,�� said Boeing marketing vice president Randy Tinseth.

��You see it with the orders. You see it with the market share. They are just not doing that well.�� Tinseth said Airbus would need to develop a new version of its A350 with 450 seats to compete with the Boeing 777-9X.

But some analysts see a more competitive landscape than Boeing is letting on.

��If you exclude the 777-9X, the other models can run the same routes with the same capacity and a similar level of performance,�� said Michel Merluzeau, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan. Airbus has ��got a foot in the market of the 787 and a foot in the market of the 777,�� Merluzeau added. Jumbo Jet Demand Rising The appeal of long-haul aircraft is the same for both of the world-leading aircraft makers: greater profits. Whereas Boeing’s smaller 737 line sells for US$78-113 million, the 787 is listed at US$218-297 million and the 777 at US$269-388 million. A new round of jumbo plane orders is expected from carriers seeking to cut their fuel costs. Demand for the bigger planes will reach 7,800 units worth about US$1 trillion in the coming 20 years, according to Airbus.