During the past week, the French-based manufacturer Airbus has secured some very important orders from airlines which have been historically closer to its American counterpart Boeing. Let’s have a look to what happened during the past days, which have been very busy for Airbus and reserved some good surprises.
Qantas’ short-haul fleet renewal
Last Thursday (16th December 2021), Qantas has decided to select Airbus A220 and A320neo families for its short-haul fleet renewal. In detail, a commitment for 40 aircraft, including 20 A321XLR (extra long-range) and 20 A220 aircraft, is expected to be placed with Airbus by the end of FY22. Additionally, Qantas has a further 94 purchase right options for the next 10 years, while its existing fleet of Boeing 717 and 737 is being gradually phased out.
This order comes as an addition to Qantas’ subsidiary Jetstar’s existing agreement with Airbus, including over 100 aircraft in the A320neo family. The combination of the two deals brings a total of 299 deliveries across both the A320 and A220 families for Qantas, QantasLink and Jetstar’s domestic short-haul operations.
According to ch-aviation, at the moment Qantas has a fleet of 75 Boeing 737-800 and 20 Boeing 717.
Qantas has already a strong relationship with Airbus, with 12 A380 gradually coming back to service, and more than 30 A330. Also, back in 2019, Qantas decided to choose Airbus over Boeing for its Project Sunrise aircraft, choosing a specifically modified version of the Airbus A350-1000 for its extra-long-haul operations planned to start in the near future.
Qantas’ press release states that the decisions for its short-haul fleet renewal were to be made on Airbus A320neo vs. Boeing 737MAX, and Airbus A220 vs. Embraer E190-E2.
Qantas’ CEO Alan Joyce commented:
“Can I thank Airbus, Boeing, Embraer and the engine manufacturers for the efforts they put into this process. This was a very tough choice to make. Each option delivered on our core requirements around safety, capability and emissions reductions. But […] Airbus was the right choice as preferred tenderer.
The Airbus deal had the added advantage of providing ongoing flexibility within the order, meaning we can continue to choose between the entire A320neo and A220 families depending on our changing needs in the years ahead. The ability to combine the Jetstar and Qantas order for the A320 type was also a factor.
The A320 will be new for Qantas Domestic, but we already know it’s a great aircraft because it’s been the backbone of Jetstar’s success for more than 15 years and more recently operating the resources industry in Western Australia.
The A220 is such a versatile aircraft which has become popular with airline customers in the United States and Europe because it has the capability to fly regional routes as well as longer sectors between capital cities.”
Singapore Airlines’ A350 Freighter order
As previously covered, this week Singapore Airlines planned to purchase seven Airbus A350 Freighter aircraft, in order to renew its cargo fleet: at the moment, the cargo division of the southeastern company owns seven Boeing 747, with an average age of 18 years old.
The cargo version of the successful A350 is supposed to compete directly with Boeing’s B747 and B777 freighters. The first order for this type has been placed in November 2021 at Dubai Airshow, from the American leasing company Air Lease Corporation, with 7 aircraft due to be delivered by 2026.
KLM switching to Airbus
Another surprising order has come from KLM group, a couple hours after Qantas’ decision to “convert” its short-haul fleet to Airbus.
The KLM Group’s order is part of a memorandum of understanding that the Air France-KLM Group has signed for a total of 100 aircraft of the A320neo family, plus an option on 60 additional aircraft of the same type. The aircraft will be allocated in KLM, Transavia Netherlands and Transavia France’s fleets and the first deliveries are expected in the second half of 2023. The order includes both A320neo and A321neo.
This news comes as a surprise, since KLM is well known in the industry for its committment to Boeing. Its short-haul fleet is made out of 47 Boeing 737, in the -700, -800 and -900 variants. Also on its long-haul fleet, KLM owns mostly Boeing 777 and 787, respectively 31 and 18, with only 13 Airbus A330 additionally.
Transavia’s fleet is made out of 89 Boeing 737, planned to be completely replaced by this order.
Additionally, Air France has ordered four Airbus A350F to renew its cargo fleet, which currently counts two Boeing 777F.
A successful end of the year
Thanks to these three orders, the European manufacturer has basically sold some 300 aircraft in just 48 hours. After some 400 orders secured during last month’s Dubai Airshow (including an impressive 255 A320neo family order by Indigo Partners), Airbus can close this 2021 with a solid base for the future years.
Most of all, however, Airbus managed to “steal” two potential customers who have been historically loyal to Boeing. KLM and Qantas have both big Boeing 737NG fleets, so it would make sense to renew their fleet with a Boeing 737MAX order. Also, it might difficult for an airline to convert its flying crews to a completely different aircraft type. Both Qantas and KLM, though, claimed that their orders with Airbus were more logical, competitive and could ensure a more sustainable fleet.
Interestingly, several French newspapers and sources affirm that KLM’s Airbus order was placed because of Air France’s pressure, supported by the manufacturer itself and the French government. However, all the parts concerned denied this rumor.
For sure, the recent issues regarding Boeing 737MAX and Boeing 787 structural issues have given a competitive advantage to Airbus. During November 2021, Boeing has secured 91 net orders, while its European counterpart had 243, almost three times more. Also, Boeing delivered just 34 planes in November, compared to 58 aircraft from Airbus, leaving the American manufacturer way behind in terms of orders and deliveries.
On another note, this week has brought also some sad news from Airbus’ side: on the same day of these big orders, Airbus has delivered its last-ever Airbus A380. This signs the end of the Superjumbo era, whose performance and popularity has not been as high as Airbus hoped.
The last aircraft, registered as A6-EVS, has been delivered to Emirates, and it’s the 123th aircraft of the type for the Middle Eastern giant.
Despite being loved by many travelers and aviation enthusiasts, the A380’s final days have been rumored ever since 2019, when Airbus announced plans to cease its production in the face of disappointing demand.
Airbus has said goodbye to its A380 production with A6-EVS drawing a heart over Hamburg during one of the last test flights.