- Airbus is looking to buy back delivery slots for its A321neo as it hopes to secure an order from United Airlines.
- United Airlines is reconsidering its Boeing 737 MAX 10 orders due to delays in delivery and the aircraft’s damaged reputation.
- Boeing’s delivery delays have pushed United Airlines to explore alternatives, including the A321neo.
With a backlog stretching multiple years, Airbus is reportedly looking to take back delivery slots over the coming years for its Airbus A321neo as it looks to capitalize on a potential order from United Airlines amid the carrier hesitation over the Boeing 737 MAX 10.
Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the matter, reports that European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has been looking to buy back delivery slots from both airlines and lessors for its popular Airbus A321neo. This coincides with United Airlines’ public denouncement of Boeing’s 737 MAX 10 aircraft, given its delayed delivery timeline.
United Airlines relationship with Boeing 737 MAX 10
United Airlines has been listed as the Boeing 737 MAX 10’s launch customer, and has provided a significant push for the type. It ordered 277 aircraft with options for an additional 200. As such, United has an almost unbreakable relationship with the type, given the likelihood of a complex contract limiting the scope of its amendment. In other words, it may not be easy for United Airlines to shift to an Airbus A321neo order.
Photo: Lukas Souza | Simple Flying
Yet this difficulty has not stopped the airline from publicly voicing its concerns with the type. In a conference call earlier this week, Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby said that the airline was reviewing its order for the Boeing 737 MAX 10, adding that it had been forced to omit it from its fleet planning as it could not guarantee when it would be delivered. He said:
“We’ll be working on what that means exactly with Boeing. But Boeing is not going to be able to meet their contractual deliveries on at least many of those airplanes. And I’ll just leave it at that.”
The concerns raised by Kirby come at a time of particular fragility for Boeing. The manufacturer is suffering from the blowback of the recent Alaska Airlines incident in which a Boeing 737 MAX 9’s door plug blew open midair, causing an uncontrolled cabin decompression. In an interview with CNBC, Kirby said:
“The Max 9 grounding is probably the straw that broke the camel’s back for us.”
The loose bolts were found by the FAA-mandated inspections following a door plug blowout aboard an Alaska Airlines flight.
Photo: Lukas Souza | Simple Flying
United is concerned that Boeing is far off schedule in its deliveries. Kirby said that the first deliveries of the Boeing 737 MAX 10 aircraft could start five years later than planned in 2025, with a likelihood of additional delays given the type’s pending certification. In November, it was reported that the manufacturer had been cleared to begin test flights in advance of certification.
When commenting on the measures that will be taken to mitigate this in terms of fleet plans, Kirby said:
“Well, we’re early in the planning process so we will see. But it probably means that we change the order books, there’s alternative airplanes instead of MAX 10s, at least for the next few years, and this probably means we won’t grow as fast as we were hoping.”
Switching to the A321neo
Airbus’ discussions with leasing companies and airlines to find slots to potentially offer United Airlines would give the manufacturer a significant boost – not that it necessarily needs one right now. Snagging additional orders from United Airlines, a loyal Boeing customer (despite operating more than 100 Airbus A320 family aircraft), would be a substantial achievement for the company.
The aircraft has not yet entered into service and has been in the US since last week.
However, finding delivery slots will be a considerable challenge. The Airbus A321neo program had an overall total of 6171 orders worldwide, of which more than 1200 have been delivered, according to order and delivery data available from Airbus. United Airlines ordered a total of 180 Airbus A321 aircraft, comprising 130 Airbus A321neos and 50 Airbus A321XLRs. It has 4 Airbus A321neos in service at the time of publication.
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