Farnborough Airshow 2016 has turned into something of a burial ground for Boeing’s 737 MAX strategy with Norwegian, a major customer for Airbus and Boeing single aisle jets, deciding to convert 30 of the A320NEOs it has on order to the long range or LR version of the A321 NEO model.
It will use what Airbus claims will be the longest ranging new build single aisle jet available to fly North Atlantic routes, which in recent years had become a focus for out of production Boeing 757 operations.
The A321LR NEO (which needs a shorter title) can fly 4000 nautical miles, making it capable of doing Melbourne-Singapore or similar routes in this hemisphere, for which Norwegian seems interested in developing as it already has a base in Thailand.
But perhaps more to the point, it also means the jet will be used for what Boeing said it couldn’t really do, which is replace the aging 757, and thus take some of the space it keeps claiming might, could, or would be, served by an all new design it calls a Middle of the Market or MoM jet.
The problem that is obvious at Farnborough, so far, is that Boeing has been doing a great deal of huffing and puffing over the MoM for what seems a long time, without result. Airbus is doing the selling while the American plane maker is doing the talking.
Norwegian is going to put 220 seats in its single class A321 etcs. Which is 20 less than Air Asia said would go into its order for 100 A321 NEOs announced yesterday. These are jets that Australian travellers could be offered by the Malaysia based low cost franchise before the end of this decade on routes to Denpasar, where it will have lower costs than smaller single aisle jets, provided enough of the seats are sold at sustainable prices.
If there is a market for a 757 sized MoM in this part of the world, the only candidate at this time is the LR version of the new engine technology A321.
Farnborough also saw the standard sized A320 NEO notch up another ‘confirmation’ of an order for 62 by Synergy Aerospace Corporation, who will put all of them into its wholly owned airline Avianca Brasil. The news might be old, but no less painful for Boeing, which currently seems to have floated nearly as many different changes to its 737 MAX lineup as it has in the versions being sold to airlines.
Some analysts thought Farnborough would bring about clarity as to Boeing’s MoM and MAX intentions. It looks as though we were wrong.