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
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins wins the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Davidson performs his comedy show at Edinburgh Festival 2014
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
(David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor