Boeing Co. said it’s working “very hard” to secure an order from ANA Holdings Co. after its decades-long dominance in Japan was challenged last year by a $9.5 billion aircraft deal for Airbus Group NV.
“There’s a campaign, and we are busy working very hard to win the battle,” Ihssane Mounir, Boeing’s senior vice president for sales and marketing for Northeast Asia, said in an interview in Singapore yesterday.
ANA, the Japanese carrier whose fleet is dominated by Boeing aircraft, said last year it’s close to a decision on an order for 25 jets, pitting the newest wide-body models of Airbus and the U.S. planemaker against each other. The deal is significant because Japan Airlines Co. last year bought Airbus planes for the first time, gaining a foothold in a market that Boeing has dominated as a near monopoly since World War II.
Japan has been an anomaly for Airbus in proving tougher to crack even than the U.S. John Leahy, Airbus’s sales chief, has referred to its shortcomings in the world’s No. 3 economy as his “only failure,” and Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders said in 2011 that he was “frustrated” with the challenges of doing business in Japan.
The new planes will be wide-body aircraft used on international flights, ANA President Shinichiro Ito said in September. ANA, the biggest Japanese operator of Airbus planes, will decide between the yet-to-be-made Boeing 777X and Airbus A350, the aircraft that Tokyo-based Japan Air chose in October.
Airbus won firm contracts for 18 A350-900 aircraft and 13 larger A350-1000s, plus options for 25 more planes from Japan Air. The break in a country with one of the largest wide-body fleets came after Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner was delayed for years during development and then grounded for three months worldwide last year.
The 350, set to begin commercial service with Qatar Airways Ltd. in the fourth quarter, has won 814 orders from 39 customers including Singapore Airlines Ltd. and Japan Air. The region accounts for 30 percent of the plane’s total sales.
Boeing’s 777X, set to enter service by the end of the decade, found its first and only Asian customer in Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. last year.
The 777X is “leaps ahead” of the A350-1000 and there are commonalities to the fleet of ANA, Mounir said.
“Do we have an advantage, yes. Does that advantage guarantee a win, no,” Mounir said.