Airbus's Leahy Not Worried By Bigger 737

May 31, 2016

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Airbus sales chief John Leahy said he is not worried about Boeing adopting a larger engine for its 737 MAX 9 aircraft, dubbing it "Mad MAX" because of the technical challenges it would face.

Boeing is reported to be looking at modifying a larger LEAP engine used on the Airbus A321neo to provide a 737 with more capacity and range.

Boeing would probably go ahead with the upgrade rather than build a widely touted and costlier aircraft in the 'middle of the market,' where Boeing is studying a gap between short-haul and wide-body jets, Leahy said.

Boeing said it was in continuous dialogue with customers.

While dismissing Boeing's plans to upgrade the 737 to compete with the A321neo, Airbus said it remained in talks with airlines about adding to its own A350 family with a bigger version, sharpening competition at the top of the market.

But conscious of the threat of drawing demand away from its existing A350 line-up, it said it did not expect the bulk of the airline business to be attracted to a 400-seat twin-jet.

It also dropped into its annual media briefings a new working name for the possible aircraft, the A350-2000.

Fabrice Bregier, chief executive of Airbus's plane making unit, said he was not yet convinced about the idea, because Airbus needed to ensure that it did not merely transfer orders from the 366-seat A350-1000.

Two airlines whose stance is seen as decisive in whether Airbus launches the new jet are Singapore Airlines and British Airways.

"If they buy it, Airbus will build it," a senior industry source said.

Bregier also issued a new warning to cabin suppliers over delays and manufacturing faults that have disrupted deliveries of A350s. One problem has been that some of the lavatory doors do not close properly, he said.

Airbus said the sole supplier of lavatories for the A350 is Zodiac Aerospace, which was not available for comment.

Bregier said, without naming companies, that Airbus would over time remove cabin equipment suppliers that failed to perform.