#PaxEx Podcast banner

#PaxEx Podcast Transcribed: Deciphering Airbus and Boeing in Paris


Runway Girl Network is pleased to now provide transcripts of the #PaxEx Podcast.

Musical Intro.

Mary Kirby: Welcome to the #PaxEx Podcast, available on Apple and Google Podcasts and sponsored by the Jetliner Cabins eBook App. This is episode 67 of the show where we talk about how the airline passenger experience is evolving in a mobile, social, vocal world. I am Mary Kirby and I am joined by my co-host Max Flight. Max, how are you doing and should we be calling you MAX 9, MAX 10 these days?

Max Flight: Maybe MAX 11 just to be extra special. But I am good Mary and, you know, a couple of weeks ago I attended the FAA UAS Symposium and, you know, in a few years time we might be talking about the passenger experience on board autonomous Uber aircraft. Perhaps built by Embraer. 

Kirby: Ohh, what did you think of that symposium then, Max?

Flight: It was excellent. 

Kirby: Okay.

Flight: The FAA folks and they were there in force. A lot of them were there. They are very impressive, very knowledgeable, very professional, very in tune with all of the issues. Really from all of the different stakeholder perspectives. So it was a very very good session. 

Kirby: Well it sounds like something we should talk about in a future episode then. 

Flight: Sure.

Kirby: So I look forward to talking to our guest for this show, Runway Girl Network deputy editor and aviation journalist extraordinaire, John Walton. John, you’re over there right now, yeah?

John Walton: I certainly am. Yes. Just finished up at the Paris Air Show and yeah lots of interesting stuff to talk about this year. 

Kirby: Oh absolutely, you have been a busy busy boy. You have had a very busy dance card. You have already done a round of shows, but I am so glad you are going to be able to join us. Before we get started we’d like to thank the Jetliner Cabins eBook App for sponsoring this podcast. Jetliner Cabins is the story of how scientists, designers, engineers, maintenance and marketing specialists have transformed the stark tubular interiors of typical airliners into unique settings. This eBook app invites readers to explore the expertise, discover the details and enjoy the fascinating world of Jetliner Cabins. Visit JetlinerCabins.com to learn more and to download the app. 

Flight: Very good. Well let’s get started and take a look at some of the PaxEx news stories that are making headlines. The 737 MAX and Boeing’s response to its worldwide ban on safety grounds was expected to dominate the 53rd Paris Air Show and it did. John, you covered the air show from nose to tail, so to speak, for Runway Girl Network and you reported that Boeing was in apology mode throughout the event. What was the mood like at the Boeing Chalet and during Boeing press conferences?

Walton: Oh, you know, somber apology mode is very much what they were going for. Pretty much anytime they talked to anybody they started off with an apology no matter who it was. And it wasn’t just the folks on the commercial side. I mean their initial press conference started out with their CFO apologizing. Then the head of Commercial Airplanes apologizing and then their head of Defense and Space apologizing. You know it started to almost get a little much. Um, Boeing seems to be acknowledging that it got the initial tone wrong but clearly it is trying another tact. I’m not entirely sure this is working either. You know, I don’t think it’s wise to use phrases like ‘thoughts and prayers’. That doesn’t strike me as the ideal messaging in this day and age but yeah it obviously colored the entire show. Boeing is in this sort of cold stasis at the moment in terms of its aircraft and you know that’s half the industry these days. 

Kirby: John, over at Over Leeham News he, Scott Hamilton, of course, the editor of Leeham News, he quotes one journalist as describing one of the Boeing briefings as “a funeral briefing”.

Flight: Oh dear.

Kirby: But also I think that Boeing is right to take this more measured tone because, look people are still afraid to fly on the aircraft and that is just a fact. And you are seeing it on social media everyday, people expressing their views about flying on the MAX. And, of course, the Seattle Times has done some tremendous work in covering the whys and wherefores of MCAS and the individuals within Boeing who were uncomfortable with MCAS, quote: “MCAS gained power and lost safeguards”. So was the feeling that there is culpability there, John? Was there contrition? Was it genuine?

Walton: I think Boeing is being very careful and indeed Boeing’s lawyers are being very careful not to accept responsibility as  such. And so, you know, to an extent that creates a difficult set of messages to work through. I agree with you 100% Mary, people, normal people who do not listen to the #PaxEx Podcast are worried about flying the MAX. You know I live in a small French village in the center of the country and everybody from the gardener to the hairdresser to the mayor has said, has asked me something about the MAX over the last few months. And, you know, that is to an extent a very successful branding exercise for the MAX. The problem is is that what it is branded with is something that’s not great. And, you know, and I think that there is a certainly a role for Boeing and this was something I was hoping to ask them about but they, all of their press conferences were cut very short, is really what role Boeing has in reassuring passengers in that sort of B2B2C world that it’s airline customers’ planes are safe. And that’s going to be really interesting thing for them to have to do. And it’s something that feels like it’s not even on their radar yet. Because, and this is a little bit air show media industry inside baseball, but if that was something that was on their radar and if that was something that they acknowledged the need for, they went about it very badly. Particularly in the announcement of this big IAG letter of intent for 200 737 aircraft. They are MAXs but notably IAG’s press release did not call them the MAX they called it the 737-8 and -10 whereas Boeing’s press release used the word MAX 14 times. I counted. So yeah it is an interesting time for Boeing, interesting time for the MAX, interesting time for passengers.

Kirby: That came out of left field, that big order. Now I read somewhere that Airbus didn’t get a chance to bid on that. Is that true?

Walton: Well that’s what Christian Scherer said. Christian Scherer, the new chief of sales honco at Airbus essentially said to paraphrase ‘we’d have loved the opportunity to bid for that business.’ And was very clear about it. Now there is a point at which if you get an exceedingly high discount you just say ‘actually, you know what I am not going to shop around. I am going to buy that car.’ You know, are people shopping around Volkswagen these days and getting great deals? Maybe and, you know, it feels rather the same at Boeing. You know the announcements at the show were very quiet otherwise. Extensions basically of orders, a few conversions from other customers. 20 or 30 787s here to Korean Air. One 777-200LR to Turkmenistan Airlines. And a few freighters in bridging the gap between the current version of the 777 and the now further delayed 777X. The show opened with yet more bad news for Boeing of course in that GE said that their engine is going to be late. So yeah, not a lot of great news for Boeing. That 737 order from IAG was, a lot of people said it was a vote of confidence. I think if you are confident you name the plane the same thing that the seller names it. I think it was a vote of confidence in Boeing if not necessarily the aircraft. And let’s not forget this is just a letter of intent, that is the weakest form of order that you can possibly have.

Kirby: Yeah. Underscore.

Walton: You could sign a letter of intent for some aircraft for Runway Girl Airlines and you wouldn’t have to go buy anything.

Kirby: As I learned when I covered the story of Primaris ordering the 787 about 15 years ago, John.

Flight: Well usually when there is a letter intent at least in my experience there is some degree of genuine desire to consummate the deal. But the fact that Airbus was left out of this was kind of surprising. I mean even if an operator has in mind just exactly what they want to purchase, they’ll usually bring in the competition just to get the bidding down. But like you say John, maybe Boeing offered a price that was so low that IAG just felt they had to grab it,

Walton: I tell you, Max, the number going around the air show was gasp-worthingly shocking. In terms of what percentage that Boeing got off the usual discount price. Let alone list price. If that number is true, which is why I am not saying the number because I have no independent confirmation of that. If that were true and I were IAG I probably wouldn’t have gone shopping to other guys either. Right? It’s a useful chess move for Willy Walsh to make. I am sure that at this point IAG is large enough to be… for dual fleeting to make very logical sense anyway. You know we are seeing, we are seeing for a lot of airlines one of the big problems that they are hitting is that when they grow to a certain size and something goes wrong with one of their airframes or one of their engine types an increasingly large portion of their fleet is grounded and that, you know, a prudent CEO will always split the risk. And you know I think that it’s fairly clear that these planes will be going to the non-hub locations so that’s Vueling, the Spanish/European low-cost carrier, they are going to go to LEVEL, which is the new brand that they are growing and they’ve also said that they will be aiming for the British Airways Gatwick operation, which is very much the sort of unloved child of the British Airways world. It gets all the castoffs. Crucially, I don’t think they’ll be going to the core hub operations because whereas the A320 family can do containerized cargo, the 737 families cannot. The size of the hold is just not big enough for any of those containerized cargo operations. So if that is something that you do as an airline that’s an aircraft that you may well not be too interested in.

Kirby: John you were gloriously prolific at the Paris Air Show. Really hit it out of the park and I know our readers really appreciated it and one of your pieces titled Paris Curiosities mentioned that there was a new regulator-related message from Boeing within an order for 20 converted freighter 737-800BCF aircraft for ASL Holdings and that the airframer made a comment about quote “global certification” in reference to the validation type certificate process for an aircraft modification or VTC as it is known. I had a chance to meet with Embraer executives last week when I was given the opportunity to fly on the Legacy 450 out of Boston and I actually posed this question to them and they echoed some of Boeing’s comments about the value of this process and said that whilst it might be under some scrutiny they believe that everything will stay in play and that it’s been largely beneficial to industry. So I thought it was interesting especially given Embraer’s relationship with Boeing now. They were very much mirroring comments that Boeing made at the Paris Air Show. Was there any, I mean you seem to be the only journalist who actually picked this up. Was there anyone else asking questions about Boeing’s messaging when it comes to global certification and in the context of what’s happening with the MAX?

Walton: Not really. I did manage to get a question into Ihssane Mounir who is the Boeing chief sales, chief sales person on that, you know. Essentially what Boeing did was they put in a new line which has never appeared before in any Boeing press release. So I did a full set of searches at both Boeing and indeed Google and this is a phrase that is entirely new and it reads: “Already operating on four continents, Africa, Asia, Europe and North America after entering service last year the 737-800BCF is certified by various global regulators, the US Federal Aviation Administration, the European Aviation Safety Agency, Civil Aviation, Administration of China and Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency.” This was entirely new and it smacked very much to me as a MAX-related note to editors around Boeing’s plans for the future and Ihssane Mounir played that down, he said it’s just common throughout the process you go through now when you certify an airplane or you get a validation type certificate for modification or whatever. If that was the case and had always been the case, I am fascinated that we have never heard that message before. Now it’s great for the Boeing and Embraer partnership that they are indeed on the same page here. Not least because a big part of this Boeing/Embraer deal is that we are going to have Embraer engineers essentially designing Boeing’s next airplane at this point right? So a shared understanding of the certification process of what will be required is very valuable. Now I think that makes a lot of sense in terms of, from a Boeing perspective in terms of highlighting the fact that it is global. I suspect this will take a significantly greater amount of effort in terms of getting the MAX flying outside the US than it will inside the US. And I think this is in many ways foreshadowing that.

Flight: Well there was another interesting announcement at Paris from Philippine low cost carrier Cebu Pacific and they said they are going to install 460 seats in an all-economy configuration on board the A330-900neo and I think John that’s a new max-pax figure. How are they able to pull off such a high density in that aircraft.

Walton: Right, well it’s pretty interesting from a passenger experience perspective. And there is two real ways. So the first is that they’ve rejigged the lavatories to move some of those around to save space. And the second is something that we learned later, which is that they have had to increase the size of the doors. So in the essence to perhaps oversimplify, the doors are getting bigger which means that more people can escape the aircraft in the required time. Not hugely bigger, they are just adding a slightly larger door in the place of the existing doors. It’s not the sort of the thing that’s happening with the A321, where they are moving doors round quite a bit and shifting things around. But yeah it’s a really interesting thing. Look I am a large Western person. I do not necessarily want to be flying Cebu Pacific with their 3-3-3 configuration down the back of those A330s. That said, this aircraft is not for me. This aircraft is for the Philippine market, which has a huge number of Filipino and Philippine diasporate people who are working largely in the service industry all around Asia. You know they are looking at flights to Hong Kong. They are looking at flights up into Japan. So these are flights that are largely a few hours and these are flights at the cost that Cebu Pacific can provide them meaning that people who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to go home, to visit family, have family visit them, can now travel. So I can’t really be mad at this. Cebu Pacific is an airline that always has been extremely clear about what it offers. And it has always been extremely clear that the focus is cost. And that is at least honest, you know? It is setting the passenger experience expectations and meeting them.

Kirby: John, and you’ve been exceedingly clear about your feelings on this matter as I was following you on social. I was following you on Twitter. You were very very clear. There is a photo of you, Journalist Seth Miller and another journalist floating around on an AirAsia A330 at Paris, on the 9-abreast [seat] triple. Is that right? Was that AirAsia?

Walton: Yes, it was the 9-abreast and a different A330neo, yeah.

Kirby: Okay okay.

Walton: And yes it was comfortable and that’s fine because the price that AirAsia is selling this, you know that’s a $100 from Bangkok to Tokyo. You know what, if I care enough about the passenger experience maybe between me the person I am traveling with will buy three seats and create our own little Eurobusiness situation there. Right? Or for a few hundred dollars more we’ll upgrade to the premium flatbed, which has, you know, angled lie flat seats up in the pointy end of the plane and in all fairness to AirAsia the seat pitch even in the 3-3-3 configuration is excellent. My knees did not touch the seat in front of me.

Kirby: Yeah. Although let’s be fair. Seth Miller, who has previously written for Runway Girl Network, we know he is of average build and size. He’s kind of the size of a crash test dummy and so seeing him in that picture … He can sit on a seat and you can have a fair idea of, you know, of what they are using to test these seats and he is that size. And on this AirAsia, this picture of him and John floating around, he’s clearly too big for the seat. Now that seat is what, 16…?

Walton: 16.5.

Kirby: 16.5 width, which kind of beggars belief and I understand everything you are saying John and it’s all very logical. It’s a specific market and the Western sized passenger is larger but kind of more broadly I am seeing a bit of a pivot from Airbus that is kind of remarkable. Because as you reported in a separate piece for us, Airbus is really giving the 10-abreast A350 a push which takes the passenger experience to something a little bit more akin to what we are talking about here, the 9-abreast A330 and it’s a bit of a u-turn from Airbus’ prior messaging about having a comfort standard. It was only about five or six years ago that Airbus was pushing a comfort standard and wanted one to be set including for regulators to have a think about a comfort standard. So quite a pivot from Airbus in terms of what they view as comfort and the reason behind it. What are your thoughts about that pivot?

Walton: Yeah well it sure is interesting Mary. I think this is a pivot that is largely coming from the top at Airbus. Obviously basically the entire top end of the company has changed. New combined CEO of Airbus Group and Airbus Commercial in the shape of Guillaume Faury. New chief salesman in the shape of Christian Scherer . If I am brutally honest I think that Christian Scherer is not yet up to the level of detail on passenger experience that perhaps Runway Girl Network readers and indeed listeners are. I noticed that there was a certain amount of Airbus press work to follow up on the things that Christian said and to clarify, shall we say, some of the things that he mentioned including saying that cabins are esoteric. And I think indeed that this need to focus on passenger experience is perhaps best shown with the lack of messaging around the horrified noises people are making at home for the A321XLR. Which I am sure we are also going to be talking about today.

Kirby: Yes.

Walton: Airbus basically didn’t have the defensives on no no no no, this is going to be a longhaul type cabin. This is not going to be the same cabin that you are putting on an aircraft that flies three hours right? This whole message around the A350s are a weird one. I followed up with Francois Caudron who is the vice president of marketing and we’ll have more on that over the next week I would think. There are some really interesting thoughts that Airbus is doing and some really interesting things that Airbus is trying to push. A lot of this is also around your planning assumptions that you use. So I think that what Christian Scherer was essentially trying to say was that if  you make an A350 and the 777 as uncomfortable as each other then the A350 will fly slightly further which you might expect from a slightly smaller airplane. I mean it’s 24 centimeters or 9.5 inches if you still count bushels. It’s a much smaller aircraft in terms of passenger experience which means you’ll have a much worse ride. The problem is that you are not really comparing apples with apples. You are comparing apples with crab apples which are automatically smaller. And that’s an issue right because one of the things that airlines are trying to do is figure out well okay what are the actual economics of these planes and obviously no one really knows the economics for the 777X yet since it hasn’t flown and so Airbus is to an extent using some of the planning assumptions and trying to get some messaging around its performance at the higher end of the market in terms of capacity. So without the A380, Airbus, basically if you want 400 people you are going to have to pack them in.

Kirby: Yeah but Boeing management must surely be saying to themselves, ‘see we knew you’d do this’. I think it was Randy’s blog or one of the Boeing blogs years ago when Airbus started trying to push that 11-abreast A380. The kind of final gasp before giving up on the program., you know, and Boeing saying, ‘see who are they, who’s Airbus to lecture us on seat size standards’ and everything else and this just adds weight to actually Boeing’s argument a couple years ago. Saying hey you’ll joins us eventually, you are going to join us eventually.

Walton: Yeah, yeah, yeah absolutely. I mean and worse. It’s not even joining but it’s actively worse because you’re splitting 24 fewer centimeters. Nine-and-a-half fewer inches across the 10 people in the back of that plane.

Kirby: Oh how the worm churns, John.

Walton: Indeed, indeed, indeed.

Flight: Well, of course Airbus got some orders for the A321XLR at the Paris Air Show, including from American Airlines. And Cebu Pacific I think. This is kind of being positioned as a middle of the market aircraft and some of the airlines are looking towards transatlantic nonstops. Of course it’s a narrowbody but I have seen a lot of chatter here and there, wondering if people are really going to want to fly longhaul in a narrowbody. John, what did you find the mood to be on that topic?

Walton: At this point you know and not to misquote Lucy Riccardo but Airbus and airlines have got a lot of ‘splaining to do on this one. In terms of how they are going to make the A320 family comfortable enough to fly in for 10 hours. Right? That’s what this is. This isn’t a sort of 6.5/7-hour transatlantic capable plane now. This can fly 10 hours. That’s London to Beijing, right? It’s an incredible technical achievement right? The A321XLR was fairly well, eventually fairly well telegraphed in advance of the show after a little bit of some question marks about whether Airbus would be launching it. But I am not sure a lot of people imagined that it would be a full 4,700 nautical mile range. I think people were expecting, you know, another a few hundred miles here and there after the 4,000 that it was previously but this is a really a longhaul aircraft now. And I think that part of the problem with it is Airbus didn’t have a ‘how this isn’t going to suck’ slide. Right? For lack of many things slightly more elegant. Now look I think that we have seen some start of the around a lot of these longer haul A321s in particular. So you are looking at things like TAP Air Portugal has normal business class up front and then fully flat beds, Thompson Vantage, and then a fairly well laid out economy class in back with all the bells and whistles. FlyDubai, same thing, right? So I think the trick here is that airlines have to say fairly quickly what they are going to be offering exactly, you know. Are we going to be seeing Cebu Pacific offering fully flat business class? Absolutely not. They are very clear about that. They want to go max-pax, and really start flying from regional Philippine centers to medium and longhaul destinations, right? American Airlines, you know, this opens up any number of routes from Philadelphia? Philadelphia can basically go to all of Europe. Which is great for them because that means that their less constrained East Coast hub can get over some real transatlantic route network going. You have got airlines like Frontier getting some. You have got Iberia and Aer Lingus, right, so the IAG airlines that have that sort of very far western European hub network. Qantas has also ordered 36, which is very impressive given that Qantas is already, is a 737 operator and presently Jetstar of course has the A320 family, speaking of airline groups splitting their orders between the two, but the thing that Qantas can do now is they have long wanted to start flying longhaul in and out of other Australian centers, just than the mainstay capitals. So beyond Sydney, beyond Melbourne, beyond Perth, beyond Brisbane to significantly smaller cities and that’s a fantastic opportunity for them and for a lot of airlines.

Kirby: John as you mentioned the launch of this aircraft, well you know, look for many it’s the new 757 but the launch of this aircraft has ignited the conversation about twin-aisle versus single-aisle comfort and there has been a lot of travelers going back and forth on Twitter with this specific topic in mind and some making the very good case that of course twin-aisle space allows you to do more stretching in the aisle, have more stand-up conversations in the aisle during your flight. It ensures that passengers in the back of the bus aren’t dealing with a constant stream of passengers needing that specific lav space and the perception of space and actuality of space are notable and important to many passengers. In fact, I had a conversation with my mother last week and it was funny, this story broke and it was literally just after having a chat with my mom who had been on an Aer Lingus narrowbody to Ireland and she said “I was on a small aircraft it wasn’t very comfortable.” So there are people that prefer, they view twin-aisle as a more comfortable ride. You have been somewhat challenging some of those types of comments on social media. What’s your take?

Walton: Yeah I mean, look I think we have got to compare apples and apples again right? I think that the existing single-aisles are 30-ish year old 757s that we are talking about and the twin-aisles have essentially all been upgraded into at least late 2000s levels of comfort and passenger experience. I find it really interesting that a lot of the people who are decrying the idea of a longhaul narrowbody are also the ones who are like ‘wow you know these new refurbished Delta 757s are incredible, you’d never know.’

Kirby: That might be some Boeing fanboys.

Walton: Right, you know, look I tend to discount this idea that someone is a fanboy of one or the other right? I think that both airframers make good aircraft. Both airframers make aircraft that can be comfortable. You can’t discount the role of airframers in creating the spaces for comfort but, you know, you can use these aircraft very flexibly. I think that we also, that not enough people have taken into account and this is Airbus’ fault here that we are going to see these aircraft used, using the new Airspace cabin right? With the new bigger bins, with the new cabin look and feel. With the new entryway. With new monuments. With new lavatory options and I am also fascinated that the people are somehow feeling that the widebody passenger experience is necessarily a bed of roses and that a narrowbody passenger experience is a bed of thorns. You know you look at these, look at an Air Canada 777-300ER and the passenger-to-lavatory ratio there. Particularly in economy right. You have got the best part of 400 people using far too few lavatories. Absolutely you may well hit this same problem on any narrowbody plane and indeed on the A321XLR; it is one of the many tradeoffs that we the people have to make. That said, I think there was an inherent passenger experience advantage in being able to fly nonstop from smaller markets rather than connecting right. You know, whatever the passenger, no matter how many minutes to have to stand for loo at the back of the plane, that’s better than sitting on CRJ for two hours having had to gate-check my luggage and you know walking across the rainy airfield to get to a bus. Right? There is just an inherently better experience flying nonstop than connecting and I think that that is also being lost a bit. Right the fact that you know, a lot of people who talk about planes on social media are based in major cities, right, where as Mary you and I, I think are based at secondary cities, you know, your closest airport is Philadelphia or maybe Baltimore. Mine is Lyon, you know, it’s not Washington Dulles or New York JFK, or London Heathrow right? And you know I think it’s for airports like ours that will see, you know, a huge benefit from the ability to economically operate this sort of smaller aircraft that better fits the markets from our cities. And I think that’s, you know, there will always be an opportunity if you love longhaul narrowbodies or longhaul widebodies so much, there will always be an opportunity to connect to one.

Kirby: Max do you take a stand on widebody comfort verses narrowbody?

Flight: I don’t think it’s that hugely different. Although the passenger perception of the difference could be a deciding factor. But I’ll go out on a limb because that’s what I like to do and I am wondering about how Boeing is going to respond now with the NMA. We know that’s delayed because of the 737 MAX issues. Those same issues are going to end up costing Boeing I don’t know how many billions of dollars in expenses that they hadn’t anticipated. What if Boeing goes for the next cycle. Instead of proceeding really with the NMA as had been planned because it’s been pushed out and they have all these cost to absorb, what if they go towards the next cycle and the next generation of aircraft and I don’t know what that is. Engines blended into the fuselage or unducted fans or something like that. Maybe that’s a crazy idea but you know this might have changed Boeing’s long-term strategy. I don’t know maybe that’s crazy.

Walton: No I don’t think that’s crazy at all, Max. I have been saying this week that a smart move for Boeing and a confident play once it has this thing, you know, the 737 MAX all back in the air, is to say actually we are not going to do the NMA at all, we are going to go straight to the FSA which is the future short-haul aircraft, right, the replacement for the 737 and I think that for every month that the 737 stasis continues, that becomes more likely. For a bunch of reasons. It means that we are closer to the time at which we will have new engines. Boeing is in a situation like every airframer is where there is a shortage of qualified structural aerospace engineers. They can’t run two programs at once. So they can’t run the NMA and the FSA at the same time. If I am Boeing I look at the shrinking size of the NMA market, I say well can we do something cheap and cheerful with the 787-8 right? We know it’s a lot of airplane but can we do something along the lines of what Delta has been taking in terms of late model A330s? Can we do something regional with it? Can we derate things? Can we just sell it at a bit of a loss so that we don’t get completely creamed in this market? Right? And says look well then look we will develop the next one and what they do is develop the next one and default size starts at A321 size rather than A320 or 737-8 size. So that you’re automatically able to edge up into the lower end of the middle of the market. Yeah I, is that going to happen, probably not in the way I described but I think it becomes more likely with every month that we keep going on this.  

Kirby: John isn’t NMA envisaged as a twin-aisle at this juncture?

Walton: Yeah, absolutely. I mean it’s basically it’s, there are two ways in which it is two planes right now. Right, there is the smaller version 220-ish and large version 270-ish. And they are also trying to figure out with the form they make is the American market version or the Chinese market version and the difference between the two ones there are around cargo capacity verses passenger capacity which changes the shape of the aircraft. It changes which way your oval goes. Is your oval tall or is your oval wide? The question for Boeing is whichever way they choose, they are sort of saying well actually we can’t serve the entire middle of the market with this one aircraft right? And for every time that you know you have another, another set of A321XLR orders. Or for every time that, and Airbus has been very clear about this, it intends to go do some very aggressive pricing with the A330 to serve the other end of the middle market. Let’s say your Air China, China Eastern, China Southern right, do you just say ‘well actually we can get a whole lot of cheap A330s now’ neo, ceo whatever choose your poison and basically do what Boeing just did with IAG and the 737-8 and -10. Just go out there and say ‘hey look we have got some really cheap planes that we would like to sell.’ You know Airbus has been clear that that’s what it’s going to go do. Now how much does that affect the upper end of the middle of the market? Boeing stole that bit out from under the nose of, with Hawaiian Airlines under Airbus’ nose last year at the Farnborough Airshow. Ihssane Mounir, their sales chief at Boeing was in a Hawaiian shirt last year and indeed this year he cracked a joke about not being in a Hawaiian shirt this year. There was not a lot of rum punch being drunk at the Boeing chalet. I have got to tell ya. I think that’s absolutely an interesting question. You drop the price of the A330, what does that do to the middle of the market. How many A330s do you sell then. Yeah it’s a tough one there are a lot of moving parts here. A lot of moving parts and a lot of it is around, you know, some of the really difficult things to engineer like engines right. And it’s important not to forget that, you know we, there is only two main players when we talk this size of aircraft and, you know, I’ll finish off my bit of a diatribe by saying – if this was not the 737, if this was any other aircraft, would we have had this narrative about ‘the 737 is going to fly again, it’s the 737.’ This smacks a little bit to me of too big to fail.

Flight: Right. Yeah.

Walton: And I am not sure that ends well for the industry.


Kirby: Hmm, that’s a good point. I know we are rapidly coming to a close here, one thing that I hope we could get to talk about maybe in the future is what the very specific PaxEx on the A321XLR is going to look because I have to say I confess I am a little concerned because we have seen narrowbodies of course flown on transatlantic routes including by Norwegian, that have, that don’t even have seatback entertainment and it’s a little bit worrisome that airlines might use the opportunity to devolve PaxEx a little bit down back even further. But perhaps a topic for another time. We are rapidly coming to a close. I want to thank our listeners and our sponsor the Jetliner Cabins eBook app and remember you can find us online at Runwaygirlnetwork.com and on Apple and Google Podcasts. Be sure to follow all the Runway Girl Network activity on Twitter at @RunwayGirl and remember to use the #PaxEx hashtag when tweeting about the passenger experience. John, a big thank you for joining us. Where can listeners find you at?

Walton: Well, find me on Twitter at @ThatJohn, of course on Runway Girl Network and of course the RGN In Conversation Podcast. Which is also available on iTunes.

Flight: Fantastic. John always a pleasure. So we will ask all of you to join us again next time as we talk about the passenger experience on the #PaxEx Podcast.

Kirby: Take care everyone.