Airbus has managed to land an order from JAL for (18) A350-900s, (13) A350-1000s and another 25 options for the A350.
This from an airline which operates the 787-8 and 777 and which has a decades long relationship with Boeing. This isn’t a shot across Boeing’s bow. This is a cannonball going through the hull with water spilling into the engine compartment.
JAL is burned by the 787 and is under the control of entrepreneurs who want operational success more than a good deal from Boeing. Boeing has had years to take care of JAL as a customer. Even looking in from the outside, JAL appears to not have been given any more consideration than the average Boeing customer.
And the 787 is a pain in the ass to its operators. Yes, some operators are being overly dramatic but let’s not ignore the fact that not a single operator is publicly singing the praises of the 787 yet. Not a one.
If there was such a thing as a safe Boeing customer, it was JAL. This is the signal moment where everyone realizes that Boeing is not only vulnerable in the marketplace, it’s declining.
Boeing had a chance to kill Airbus with the 787 and lost that chance to a 4 year production delay. Even if you consider all the old-time Boeing people cautioning that the airplane needed to be birthed in its own time, 4 years is one hell of a long delay for a company that, you know, is supposed to know how to build aircraft.
Boeing had a chance to throw Airbus onto the ropes of the ring by announcing an all new 737 replacement family that would cover from 737-700 to 757-200 seating options. Instead, Airbus won the hearts and minds of airlines with a warmed over redesign of the A320 aircraft. Boeing had to respond with an aircraft that doesn’t win many hearts and minds of any airline.
Boeing even had a chance to badly hurt the A350′s sales by announcing a 777 upgrade or replacement and, instead, dithered along until that was a bit late as well.
Boeing chose to build the 747-8i on the idea that Boeing had customers that would buy Boeing no matter what. They built an aircraft that in the hearts and minds of customers was 40 years old. That was refreshed some but which really didn’t fit a need. They followed the idea that Boeing customers will buy Boeing and since the 747-8 is a Boeing product, it will work out OK. Billions of dollars have been wasted on that aircraft as well as the time and energy of good engineers. Imagine what would have happened to Airbus if Boeing had focused those resources on a full 737 replacement instead.
Boeing is losing this game. It’s losing the game to Airbus and it is going to start losing its game to Bombardier. Warmed over designs and delay in taking the next bold step is killing that company in ways that will be painful to watch. This is the legacy of McDonnell Douglas and this is exactly how McD lost the game against Boeing and Airbus. Exactly how it was lost. There are no real differences here.
Apologize for Boeing if you want but before you do . . . name one strong decision that yielded immediate and positive results for Boeing in the last 8 years. Just name one.