In the wake of the second Boeing 737 MAX crash in six months, a number of international airlines have continued to keep the model grounded, opening up more opportunities to Boeing’s main competitor, Airbus.
|Korean Air is one of a batch of airlines to temporarily ground Boeing 737 MAX jets |
Korean Air signed a contract to buy 50 of the model in 2015. It had planned to receive deliver and introduce B737 MAX in May 2019, but after the incidents, the airline is substituting the model with other aircraft while monitoring the situation closely.
“We will be substituting B737 MAX within our current fleet. We do not expect a shortfall in aircraft as we have enough substitutions in our current fleet,” a representative of Korean Air told VIR.
The airline made the announcement following the tragic crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 flying from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, which killed all 157 passengers and the crew in early March. Last October, a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max went down over the Java Sea, killing all 189 people on board.
Last week the world’s second-largest cargo carrier Qatar Airways also announced that it had delayed the delivery of its first B737 MAX. “We will not be able take the aircraft until we know the results of the investigation,” said chief executive Akbar al-Baker.
Malaysia Airlines has also announced that it has converted a portion of order slots to the MAX 10 variant.
So far, air carriers including SilkAir, Cayman Airways, Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Aeromexico, and many others have joined Korean Air and Qatar Airways to ground their MAX 8 models.
The suspensions are a strong blow to Boeing, the world’s biggest commercial aircraft manufacturer, especially as more countries, including the UK and Vietnam, join China, Singapore, and Australia in suspending the aircraft.
Globally, more than 300 Boeing 737-MAX planes are in operation and more than 5,000 have been ordered since 2017.
“I believe the likeliest scenario is that these planes will be grounded for about three months,” Richard Aboulafia, vice president and analyst at Teal Group, an US aerospace and defence consulting company, told VIR.
Industry insiders said that the crown is there for the taking for Airbus. Airbus once outstripped Boeing in aircraft deliveries for several years. Airbus is now confident that 2019 will be a big year for them, as their backlog of orders is said to be larger than Boeing’s, at 7,500 aircraft compared to the 5,900 of its US rival.
In Vietnam, where the aviation market is producing double-digit annual growth, there is a tremendous demand for aircraft. Airbus and Boeing have big customers like national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet, and newcomer Bamboo Airways, that have all signed big orders.
For example, in February 2019, Vietjet ordered 100 new Boeing 737 MAX planes worth $12.7 billion, while Bamboo Airways finalised a deal, also with Boeing, to purchase 10 787-9 Dreamliners worth nearly $3 billion.
In the latest developments, Bamboo Airways is said to have finalised a deal to buy an additional 26 Airbus A321 Neo with the total value of $6.3 billion to serve its domestic and international expansion strategy. In 2018, the newcomer airline signed an agreement to buy 24 Airbus A321 Neo.