Prompted by questions about the company's sales, Boeing's sales chief John Wojick made an unusually pointed argument by comparing his company's backlog to that of rival Airbus.
On the opening day of the Farnborough Air Show, Boeing sales chief John Wojick, frustrated at being asked once again about Airbus’s sales dominance in the single-aisle jet market, publicly made an unusually pointed argument.
Going into the Air Show, the Airbus A320neo jet family had 4,583 orders compared to 3,216 for Boeing’s rival 737 MAX family.
“OK,” said Wojick, “Airbus has sold more airplanes.” He then led his audience through a telling comparison of the solidity of those two huge sales backlogs.
The two largest 737 customers, Southwest and Ryanair of Ireland, together operate 1,100 Boeing 737s today. He pointed out that the two have collectively ordered 300 MAXs.
Clearly, Wojick has room to sell lots more MAXs to those two as they renew their large fleets.
In contrast, Airbus’s top two A320 customers, Indigo of India and AirAsia of Malaysia, who have ordered more than 730 Airbus A320neos, between them operate only about 250 airplanes today.
Apart from Wojick’s room to grow his order book, the implication was that these two airlines may have bitten off more than they can chew and might never take delivery of all those A320s.
“Who has more upside?” Wojick asked rhetorically. “I’m really comfortable with our position on the 737 MAX.”
When Airbus sales chief John Leahy publicly trash talks Boeing, which he does regularly, executives at the U.S. jetmaker more often than not seem to bite their tongues.
After all, Wojick might one day try to sell airplanes to Indigo or AirAsia, so why risk offense? “I get tired of questions on market share in single aisle jets,” Wojick said, by way of explanation.
Asked for a response, Leahy fired back a dismissive soundbite, with the finesse of a Donald Trump tweet responding to a slight from Hillary Clinton.
“Our dominant market share with the A320neo tastes sweet,” Leahy wrote in an e-mail. “It’s no surprise it leaves a sour taste with our competitors.”
In an interview at the Air Show, John Plueger, the new chief executive of airplane lessor ALC – which has 140 Airbus A320neos and 112 Boeing 737 MAXs on order – had a more substantive take.
Plueger is the longtime number two to industry guru Steve Udvar-Hazy, who at 70 stepped aside on July 1 to be ALC’s executive chairman. Plueger noted that the neo advantage is largely due to superior sales of the largest model in the family, the A321.
“I think it’s wrong to simply dismiss the A321,” said Plueger. “The sales record speaks for itself.”
And he said despite Wojick’s comments, Boeing recognizes it has a problem.
He said that’s why Boeing is seriously studying a potential stretch of its own largest model, the 737 MAX 9, talked about as the MAX 10.
The war of words will no doubt continue this week at Farnborough. At least Wojick has brought his rapier.