Hopes of BA order fade at Airbus

By Michael Harrison

HOPES are fading at Airbus that British Airways will break with tradition and award the European jet manufacturer an order worth pounds 2.4bn for up to 100 new jets.

Reports in recent weeks suggested that Airbus was ahead of its US rival Boeing in the race for the prestige deal. But sources in the European consortium, in which British Aerospace has a 20 per cent stake, believe this was merely a ruse to get Boeing to return with a more aggressive tender. Indeed, as recently as last month there were suggestions that Airbus executives were angry at being given "the runaround" by BA.

The choice is between the Airbus A320 family and Boeing's New Generation 737 series, launched at the beginning of last year. BA plans to use the new jets to operate regional services from the UK to short-haul and medium- haul European destinations. The order is due to be placed in early April.

BA has never ordered Airbus aircraft before - something which has led it to being christened Boeing Airways at the Toulouse headquarters of the European consortium.

Although senior BA sources maintained last week that Boeing and Airbus had an equal chance of winning the order, Airbus believes that the US manufacturer will pull out all the stops to clinch the deal.

"It is more important for Boeing to keep BA as a customer than for Airbus to win its first order," one observer said. Boeing has ramped up production rates of the new 737 at its Seattle factories after incurring more than $1bn (pounds 614m) of charges and will be anxious to secure BA's order. Airbus is also considering raising production rates again from 236 this year to 300 in 1999. That would take output of the A320 family to 17-18 a month.

As part of its attempt to secure the order, Boeing has been conducting a lobbying campaign highlighting the UK jobs it provides and the number of suppliers that work on the 737 programme. It says that if selected, it will create work for 25 UK suppliers including BAe, British Aerospace, GEC-Marconi and Smiths Industries. According to Boeing executives, more than 30 major components, ranging from the rudder and dorsal fin to electronic instrumentation, are manufactured in the UK.

Observers also believe Boeing will be keen not to lose such a prestige customer as BA if it decides to press ahead with the development of a super-jumbo. Boeing shelved plans to build a stretched version of its 747 jumbo jet last year, claiming the market was too small. The announcement took observers by surprise and, for the time being at least, left Airbus as the only jet manufacturer preparing to launch a super-jumbo.

Airbus, which has been working with 20 airlines including BA on the development of its 650-seater A3XX, intends to finalise the design later this year and start signing up customers in 1999. This may oblige Boeing to spell out its plans. BA is one of the most enthusiastic backers of the concept but Boeing puts demand at only 470 whereas Airbus estimates it at 1,360.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Contracts Executive - City of London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Contracts Executive - Cit...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Call Centre Debt Collector - Multiple Roles

£21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Guru Careers: Financial Director / FD / Senior Finance Manager

Up to 70k DOE: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Financial Director ...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen