Airbus ads jab Boeing on new jets
BY ANDREA ROTHMAN Bloomberg News
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
11/27/12 at 7:06 AM
Airbus SAS accused Boeing Co. of making misleading claims about its aircrafts' performance and ridiculed its competitor with an advertising campaign showing a Boeing jet nose grotesquely elongated to resemble Pinocchio's.
The ad, which appears this week in trade publications including Aviation Week and Flight, asserts that Boeing is "stretching the truth" in its own campaign to promote its aircraft. Boeing representatives didn't immediately respond to requests seeking comment.
"They crossed a line when they started running specific numbers," Airbus sales chief John Leahy said in an interview. "They've blatantly misrepresented the facts."
The bickering between the industry's duopoly highlights the stakes in the $70 billion global civil aviation industry, as both companies fight to trump one another in orders. Airbus is set to lose its delivery lead this year for the first time in almost a decade, after Boeing overcame production delays and began shipping its new 787 Dreamliner to customers.
Airbus and Chicago-based Boeing are both drawing comparisons with each other's narrow-body aircraft, the industry's workhorses, and their four-engine A380 and 747-8 jumbo jets. Leahy said Airbus was driven to act only after Boeing ran its own ads with specific claims about the alleged superiority of its 737 Max over the A320Neo, and its 747-8 over Airbus's A380.
The 737 Max ad claims that the plane boasts 8 percent lower costs per seat than Airbus' A320neo. Airbus wrote to Boeing's general counsel complaining the numbers are "wildly out of line," and the Toulouse, France-based company chose to place ads addressing airlines only after Boeing failed to respond, Leahy said.
The two planemakers combined have delivered more than 12,000 narrow-body planes since Boeing 737s reached their first customers in 1967. In its ad, Airbus said it is now dominant in the market for very large aircraft with its A380 double-decker, a niche where Boeing has struggled to maintain the popularity of previous iterations of its iconic 747 jumbo.
Airbus and Boeing have sparred in public before. Some 15 years ago, Airbus took out ads touting the now out-of-production four-engine A340 as safer than a twin-engine rival offered by Boeing. The U.S. manufacturer took umbrage that its competitor had breached an unwritten understanding not to use safety issues to market its planes.
The two manufacturers have promoted competing planes with different sets of numbers for decades, each choosing parameters that would give its own model an edge with buyers. Both the upgraded 737 and the A320 will boast new engines, the main contributing factor to improved efficiency.
"The truth about these claims is that neither side knows," said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of consultant Teal Group in Fairfax, Va. "These are engine-driven aircraft," and until they have been fully developed and start tests, it's impossible to know what they can offer, he said.
Airbus's A320neo will have its commercial debut in late 2015, while the Max will enter service in 2017, according to timetables outlined by the planemakers.
Boeing said Nov. 15 that the 737 Max has reached "firm concept" in the development process, with larger engines, a redesigned tail cone and winglets. The company also announced some systems changes, including the addition of large cockpit displays, similar to those for the 787 Dreamliner.
To date, Airbus has won 1,515 orders for its A320neo, the fastest-selling model in civil aviation history. That compares with 969 orders for the 737 Max. Boeing has delivered about 7,400 737s since 1967, making the aircraft the most widely flown model around the world.
Airbus was concerned that some "less sophisticated airlines" might be swayed by Boeing's claims and be less inclined to talk to Airbus, Leahy said. The sales chief said he didn't know what Airbus will do if Boeing ignores its ads.
"We'll take one step at a time," he said.
Original Print Headline: Airbus ads jab Boeing on new-jet claims
An Airbus advertisement shows a Boeing jet nose elongated to resemble Pinocchio's. Airbus SAS is accusing Boeing Co. of making misleading claims about its aircrafts' performance. AIRBUS / Bloomberg