The US media predictions were right. American Airlines has split what it says is the largest jet purchase in history between Airbus and Boeing with firm orders for 260 A320 family airliners, and 200 Boeing 737s comprising 100 of the current NG series models and a launch order for 100 ‘new variant’ models featuring the LEAP-X engine.
The split decision depends in part on the Boeing board approving the new technology engine version of the 737 family, which means it is likely to postpone the all-new single aisle design Boeing had previously indicated it could build by 2019.
The decision also adds weight to US speculation that Airbus will set up a new final assembly line for A320 NEO or new engine option jets in Mobile, Alabama, to allow it to lift total production of that series to 60 a month in the medium term, supplementing its major assembly centres in France, Germany and most recently China.
This is the crux of the Airbus statement :
Airbus and American Airlines, a wholly-owned subsidiary of AMR Corporation, have signed a firm contract for American to acquire 260 modern, fuel-efficient Airbus A320 Family aircraft. The contract calls for flexibility for the airline to take delivery of A319s, A320s and A321s, with 130 featuring Airbus’ New Engine Option (neo). All 260 aircraft will feature large, fuel-saving wingtip devices known as Sharklets.
The deal between Airbus and American was announced today at the airline’s Dallas/Ft. Worth hub. The airline plans to announce its choice of engines to power the aircraft at a later date.
This is how Boeing summarises its part of the total AA order:
Boeing (NYSE: BA) confirmed that American Airlines has selected Boeing to provide 200 narrowbody aircraft, with options for 100 more, to accelerate its single-aisle fleet replacement.
The agreement includes 100 Next-Generation 737s, with options for an additional 40 aircraft. Boeing and American Airlines will work to finalise the agreement over the next several weeks, at which time it will be a firm order and posted to the Boeing Orders and Deliveries website.
In addition, American Airlines has committed to order a variant of the 737 featuring new more fuel-efficient engines, pending final aircraft configuration and launch approval of the program by the Boeing board of directors. This commitment for 100 aircraft, with options for 60 more, is the first of many anticipated for this variant. The aircraft would be powered by CFM International’s LEAP-X engine.
The American Airlines order has clearly changed Boeing’s preferred strategy of developing an all new airliner rather than a re-engined model, and means that both Airbus and Boeing will be offering new engine technology versions of single aisle jets in the near term, and all new designs in the longer term.