Don’t be surprised that the title of this post sounds a little bitter. I AM bitter. This week is the Paris Air Show. In odd years, it’s at Le Bourget, the airport where Lindbergh landed after his first transatlantic journey, and in even years it’s in Farnborough in the UK. So why am I bitter? I want to go!
These shows serve very little useful purpose other than being a humongous boondoggle. Yes, you get to see cool planes flying around, but that’s hardly the point of the show. The point is for suppliers to schmooze their best customers with the hope that their efforts will result in orders down the line. The big guys all have their own “chalets” where they do their entertaining. Yes, they actually call them chalets.
Often, the air show isn’t just the place to vie for orders. It’s the place where orders are announced. In the aircraft manufacturing game, Boeing has long accused Airbus of stashing its orders away so that it can make a big splash. Of course, Airbus says that’s not true at all – the customers determine when to announce the orders.
No matter who decides, it’s clear that Airbus has had a huge week so far. They kicked it off with a hotly contested order from US Airways. Boeing had offered a combo of 787s and 737s to replace the airline’s Airbus fleet, and rumors were that they had this in the bag. In the end, Airbus apparently came in with such a shockingly good counter that US Airways couldn’t turn it down. So now, you’ll see 60 new A320 series aircraft replacing older 737s and eventually 22 A350s (the Airbus answer to the 787) replacing the entire current widebody fleet.
Airbus has also seen orders from Qatar Airways, Emirates, GECAS (leasing company), Jazeera Airways, ALAFCO (leasing company), and more. Don’t think that Boeing has been sitting on the sideline, though. They’ve had some big orders as well including an order from the leasing company ILFC for 50 787s. In all, it looks like Airbus has recorded more than 400 and Boeing closer to 150. That’s a lot of business, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are all other sorts of aviation-related deals going on as well.
So why should an airline customer like you care about these airshows? Absolutely no reason at all. Like I said, it’s just a big boondoggle, and I wish I were there.