SAN DIEGO, March 7 Major aircraft leasing
companies have offered a lukewarm response to proposals by
Boeing to build a bigger version of its 737 MAX family to
counter the Airbus A321neo.
Boeing has begun offering the model code-named 737 MAX 10X
to airlines, saying it would be the most efficient single-aisle
jetliner in the business - a claim disputed by Airbus.
Steven Udvar-Hazy, executive chairman of Air Lease,
who is regarded as one of the industry's most influential
voices, questioned the logic of adding a longer version of the
slow-selling 737 MAX 9, which was rolled out on Tuesday.
"The question to ask is, would Boeing even be considering
the (737) MAX 10, if it weren’t for the A321neo," he said at the
ISTAT Americas air finance conference.
"From all appearances, when you talk to airlines, the
concept of another stretch to the 737 is really a reaction to
the success of the A321neo. It is a way to protect some level of
market share in that 200-seat-plus category."
If, as expected, Boeing decides formally to launch the jet,
it would be one of five variants of the firm's upgraded
single-aisle 737 jet family.
By far the biggest-selling model is the 162-seat 737 MAX 8,
the successor to Boeing's hugely successful 737-800.
Several leasing company officials and other delegates at the
conference, which can set the tone for new developments, said
Boeing may penalise sales of its own 737 MAX 9 with the new
plane, but would struggle to dent sales of the A321neo itself.
"It is very hard to pick a winner out of those five shells,
but there is no doubt they will cannibalise each other," said
Aengus Kelly, chief executive of AerCap, the world's
second-largest lessor of 737 MAX jetliners.
"We think the MAX 8 will be a winner out of that family;
with the others we have to be cautious."
Boeing, however, used the annual ISTAT event to step up
marketing for the 737 MAX 10.
It says that by stretching the 737 MAX 9 fuselage and adding
12 seats, it would match capacity of the A3212neo which carries
185 people or over 200 in denser configurations.
It would be available in 2020 and have more range than its
rival, Boeing marketing vice president Randy Tinseth said.
Airbus executives denied this.
Industry sources say the 737 MAX 10 is a tactical response
to the A321neo, pending a strategic assault that Boeing is
weighing on the gap between single-aisle and twin-aisle jets.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)