In a move that indicates problems with the 787 Dreamliner are catching up with Boeing, longtime customer Japan Airlines (JAL) just placed its first order with Airbus, for 31 A350 XWB jets.
The A350 is a direct competitor to the 787 Dreamliner. The JAL deal, which includes options for 25 more jets, is worth $US9.5 billion, according to The New York Times.
Both the A350 and 787 are made primarily of composite materials and offer a significant fuel economy advantage over previous designs, a major advantage for an airline industry that is beset by high fuel prices.
But seemingly endless problems have plagued the 787, and the JAL order is a sign that those issues have caught up with Boeing.
JAL received its first Dreamliners in March 2012 with much fanfare, and now owns nine 787s, which it flies from Japan to destinations in the U.S., Europe, India, and Australia. The honeymoon did not last long.
In January 2013, JAL and All Nippon Airways (ANA) voluntarily grounded their Dreamliner fleets after an ANA 787 had to make an emergency landing due to a battery malfunction. The American FAA followed with a rare grounding order for the jets, which lasted several months.
Boeing introduced a new battery system and got the Dreamliners flying again, but other problems have surfaced. Norwegian Air has publicly complained about reliability issues, prompting Boeing to promise better product support, according to The Seattle Times.
JAL is not the only airline to place orders for both the 787 and A350: Air France, Singapore Airlines, and Lufthansa all plan to have both in their fleets. But that doesn’t make the news easier for Boeing. “It’s a heartbreak,” said Kostya Zolotusky, managing director of Boeing Capital Corp, according to Reuters.
In a statement, Boeing said it “respects” the airline’s decision to buy from Airbus:
“Although we are disappointed with the selection, we will continue to provide the most fuel efficient and innovative products and services that meet longer-term fleet requirements for Japan Airlines. We have built a strong relationship with Japan Airlines over the last 50 years and we look to continue our partnership going forward.”
The A350 should enter commercial service in the second half of 2014, and JAL should be flying the A350 as of 2019.
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