benefits, but he is not convinced of Boeing’s conclusions
in the single-aisle market.
Cunningham also doubts whether the market is as
big as Boeing believes, particularly since Airbus is selling
the A321LR and A330neo into the same segment years
earlier. Tis view appears to be supported by results of
the Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Aviation Week
survey. “Tat’s why Boeing is trying to kill the A330neo
with big discounts for the 787,” he notes.
Others have more nuanced views. One top industry
Airline CEOs comment
executive believes the NMA ultimately can be successful,
although he has the same doubts as Cunningham about
market size. He criticizes the manufacturer for its poor mar-
keting: “Tey talked a lot about it and then pulled back.”
“It’s going to be tough. Boeing is going to want very,
very low cost,” says an executive at an important supplier.
“We are going to have to thread a needle on this to make
the business case work for both of us.”
In spite of Boeing’s own consultations with a large group
of airlines, some customers remain to be convinced. Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr believes the aircraft
will not be ready for entry into service much before the
end of the next decade. Several factors will cause the backward shift compared to Boeing’s own official planning.
“NMA is supposed to replace to a large degree the 757
and 767. But they continue to fly longer than one would
have thought a few years ago,” Spohr argues. He expects
that to be the case, despite the higher price of oil influencing the business case for aging aircraft. Spohr also
sees “less euphoria” for new aircraft, with airlines having
had much negative experience with teething issues and
production delays. Lufthansa’s own capacity expansion
has taken a hit because of the late introduction of the
Spohr also believes engine manufacturers are “less enthusiastic than Boeing,” given their current problems and
the uncertainty about the size of the NMA market. “But
Boeing should not even try to start this without a new
engine. A new aircraft with an old engine will position
[you] right where you don’t want to be on the operating
cost curve,” Spohr said.
Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways Group, says,
“Tere are a lot of rumors, but we have not yet been
briefed.” While the NMA would be unsuitable for the
long-haul part of the airline’s network, it potentially
could be operated on shorter routes to secondary desti-
nations in Europe, to Africa and on the Indian subcon-
tinent. One of the factors influencing its usefulness for
Gulf carriers will be the extent to which more neighbor-
ing markets open.
Emirates president Tim Clark also takes a cautious
view. “Maybe there is a market,” he says. But he notes
that “differences of opinion between the carriers in Asia-
Pacific and domestic US operators” are making it very
hard for Boeing to define a configuration that is widely
accepted. He points to requirements such as range and
cargo capacity that will influence the aircraft’s design.
Clark hints that Emirates itself is unlikely to be inter-
ested. However, the aircraft could be a candidate for its
sister airline, flydubai, now an all-Boeing 737 operator
focused on routes of up to 5 hr. from Dubai.
But there are also those who are more enthusiastic.
Alan Joyce, the CEO of potential operator Qantas Air-
ways, says the NMA would be an attractive aircraft for
Australian domestic routes. He expects average aircraft
size to increase, as many of the country’s key airports are
becoming slot-constrained, and routes such as Sydney-
Melbourne already are served with extremely high fre-
Qantas wants the NMA to enable the carrier to retain
its 35-min. turnarounds, and Joyce expects the aircraft to
meet that target if it is, as expected, a twin-aisle that al-
lows speedy boarding and deplaning of passengers. Qan-
tas is more interested in operational efficiency than range
but would look at potentially using the NMA on the
Sydney-Singapore route, which exceeds 8 hr. Sydney-Bali
is also a potential high-density leisure market on which
the aircraft could be flown.
Pedro Heilbron, CEO of Copa Airlines, says his car-
rier is interested in the price of the NMA. Copa operates
a hub in Panama to connect many Latin American des-
tinations with North America, using an all-Boeing 737
fleet. Te NMA would enable the airline to increase its
average aircraft size and replace the 737 for many of the
Delta CEO Ed Bastian says the airline could be a
launch customer for the NMA, with retirements of its
large 757 and 767 fleets coming up in 2026-30.
Christoph Debus, CEO of Tomas Cook Group’s airline division, says his company is a “predestined customer.” Te group’s various carriers operate relatively long
intra-European routes (to the Canary Islands in particular) on which a true widebody does not make economic
sense and narrowbodies can be too small.
—Joe Anselmo and Graham Warwick contributed to this article.
“It’s a market that needs the efficiency and comfort of a widebody
airplane and the economics of a narrowbody.” Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing CEO