ANA Holdings Inc., the Japanese carrier whose fleet is dominated by Boeing Co. aircraft, will decide soon on placing an order for 25 jets, pitting the newest wide-body models of Airbus SAS and Boeing against each other.
“It’s getting close to the time we need to make a decision,” President Shinichiro Ito said an interview in Tokyo, where Japan’s biggest airline is based. He declined to elaborate on when the order will be made. “The key will be what plane matches our needs best.”
ANA choosing Airbus would mark a triumph for the European manufacturer in a country where Boeing has enjoyed near monopoly for decades. The ties between the U.S. planemaker and Japanese carriers were reinforced as ANA and Japan Airlines Co. became the first operators of the carbon-composite Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which was delayed by more than three years.
“This market is still Boeing’s to lose,” said Richard Aboulafia, a vice president of Teal Group, a Fairfax, Virginia-based consultant. “Boeing has been dragging its feet on an actual launch, which coupled with the near-disastrous 787 delays, might just drive ANA towards an A350-1000 decision.”
End of Decade
Boeing is marketing the 777X as a successor to its 777 jet and Chief Executive Officer James McNerney has said the planemaker expects to have the aircraft in service around the end of the decade.
The new planes ANA will order are to replace aging wide-body aircraft, used in international flights, Ito said in the Sept. 4 interview. ANA, the biggest operator of Airbus planes in the country with 17 aircraft, will decide between the yet-to-be-made 777X model and Airbus A350.
Airbus’s A350 had its maiden flight earlier this year and the first variant is set to enter service by in 2014, with the largest model slated for late 2017. The planemaker has said the A350-1000 will offer 25 percent better operating economics than Boeing’s 777-300ER.
Toulouse, France-based Airbus has been gaining market share in Japan recently as low-cost carriers lease its planes. The aircraft maker has yet to sell wide-body jets to either ANA or Japan Airlines.
ANA operates 17 Airbus single-aisle A320s, which the Japanese carrier started flying from 1991. The airline has a fleet of 236 planes, with 197 of them being Boeing aircraft.
Japan Airlines, which has never bought a new Airbus plane, has a fleet of 214 aircraft.
ANA fell 0.9 percent to 217 yen at close of trade in Tokyo. That trimmed the year-to-date gain to 20 percent, compared with a 39 percent increase in the Nikkei 225 Stock Average.
Japanese carriers flew 43 Airbus jets at the end of 2012, up from 36 a year earlier, according to the Japan Aircraft Development Corp. ANA and its affiliate Peach Aviation Ltd. are the main carriers using the European planemaker’s aircraft. In comparison, domestic carriers had 409 Boeing planes, excluding MD-90s, up from 397.
Skymark Airlines Inc., Japan’s biggest discount carrier, is currently the only Japanese airline that has agreed to buy Airbus wide-body planes, with an order for six A380s. The airline is due to start operation of its first double-decker next year.
Airbus is in discussions with Japan’s two biggest carriers about an order for its A350-1000, three people familiar with the talks said in May.