Boeing Blames Geopolitical Differences On Constrained Exports To China

Following the announcement of A $37 billion deal between multiple Chinese airlines and Airbus earlier this week, US-based rival Boeing has expressed its dissatisfaction, blaming the US-China trade war for the snubbing.

Frosty friendships

On Friday, Airbus set a record-breaking order, securing a deal for 292 narrowbody jets, including 100 A320neos for China Eastern Airlines alone.

Air China, Shenzhen Airlines, and China Southern Airlines ordered 64, 23, and 96 of the type, respectively, including 19 more via lease agreements for China Southern.


The announcement was a significant hit for Boeing, with China Southern previously being the manufacturer’s biggest customer; however, trade disagreements and continued grounding of the 737 MAX series have led to declining orders.

Friday’s $37 billion deal was likely helped in part by Airbus’ Tianjin-based final assembly line, with the order bringing in additional jobs as the aircraft manufacturer
looks to increase production by 2024
. Photo: Getty Images

“As a top US exporter with a 50-year relationship with China’s aviation industry, it is disappointing that geopolitical differences continue to constrain US aircraft exports,” noted the company in a statement on Friday.

“We continue to urge a productive dialogue between the governments given the mutual economic benefits of a thriving aviation industry. Boeing aircraft sales to China historically support tens of thousands of American jobs, and we are hopeful orders and deliveries will resume promptly.”

Boeing is currently storing around 150 undelivered 737 MAX family jets for Chinese airlines as the aircraft awaits recertification within the country. In June, China Southern restarted test flights with the model, raising hopes that China may lift its restrictions on the jet shortly.

The MAX’s re-entry to service within the lucrative market largely hinges on carriers completing aircraft modification, pilot training, and various other logistics before the type can see commercial flights. While progress has already been slow, China’s shift towards Airbus may slow things further.

However, questions have been raised regarding whether Airbus will be able to fill the demand within a short enough timeframe, which could lead to swifter recertification of the MAX and a rewarming of Boeing and China’s relationship. The European aircraft manufacturer has noted a slowdown in deliveries due to constraints with the global supply chain, significantly below its monthly target. Airbus currently has an order backlog of almost 6000 A320 family jets.

Despite this week’s loss, Boeing is set to see a 130-strong order from Delta Air Lines for its Boeing 737 MAX 10 in the near future. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Positives elsewhere

It is not all doom and gloom for Boeing, though – despite missing out on China, the company is already eyeing the growing African market.

“We’ve got a really rich history in Africa, and we’re very proud of that,” Kuljit Ghata-Aura, Boeing President of Middle East, Turkey, and Africa noted on the AviaDev Insight Africa podcast last month. “We’ve got 60 plus airline customers, 500 plus Boeing airplanes operating all over Africa. It’s really quite significant – 66% of all aircraft in operation are Boeing.”

The company’s current annual Commercial Market Outlook has identified the need for at least 1,000 new jets by 2040 across Africa, an investment potential of $160 billion. Around 72% of that requirement will be for narrowbodies, opening some opportunities for the MAX to see increased service on the continent.

While only four of the type are in operation with Ethiopian Airlines and Royal Air Maroc, a further 50 are on order for Air Peace, Arik Air, and Ethiopian.

Boeing is also set to see an order of 130 MAX 10 jets from US legacy carrier Delta Air Lines in the coming weeks, according to The Air Current. Following several years of discussions, Delta could take delivery of its first Boeing jet since 2019 by 2025. While not regaining its status as the airline’s exclusive supplier, the MAX could regain some of Boeing’s standing as Delta awaits its backlogged Airbus orders.

What are your thoughts on the latest in Airbus and Boeing’s rivalry? Let us know in the comments.

Sources: Bloomberg, The Air Current

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