Bombardier sees opportunity in Boeing indecision

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Boeing’s indecision about how to update its 737 narrow-body jet gives Bombardier a wider opening to pitch its competing CSeries jetliner to potential customers, the chief operating officer of Bombardier’s aerospace unit said yesterday.

Speaking in an interview at the Paris Air Show, Guy Hachey said Bombardier had already made a pitch to one of Boeing’s top U.S. customers, Southwest Airlines, and added that he thought it was possible to poach that business.

Boeing, which plans to update its best-selling 737 aircraft, is deciding whether to redesign it or simply put a new engine in the old design. Re-engining is faster but provides fewer fuel savings for operators than an all-new plane.

The company has been putting off the decision since last year even after top rival Airbus said it would re-engine its competing A320.

Montreal-based Bombardier had been under pressure for months to announce new orders for its 110- to 145-seater CSeries jet, which is set to enter the market in late-2013 and compete with the 737 and the A320.

Orders for the CSeries got off to a slow start, with the company coming up empty-handed at last year’s Farnborough Airshow in the UK.

But Bombardier broke a 16-month order drought on June 1 when it said Sweden’s Braathens Aviation ordered 10 CSeries planes in a deal valued at US$665 million. Braathens is Bombardier’s fourth customer for the CSeries.

On Tuesday, Bombardier, the world’s third-biggest civil aircraft maker, said Korean Air had signed an agreement to buy 10 CSeries planes and bought options and purchase rights on 20 more.

A day earlier, the company said an unidentified customer signed an order for 10 of the planes. Bombardier said it has 113 firm CSeries orders.

Shares of Bombardier, however, sagged on Wednesday after Republic Airways Holdings, the biggest CSeries customer so far, said it had agreed to buy 80 of Airbus’ A320neo planes.

Hachey said Bombardier was in advanced talks with five to seven more customers and could announce deals soon.

He said Bombardier was also in talks with U.S. carriers, which have lagged their foreign counterparts in new aircraft orders.



He said Bombardier could even invade the Boeing stronghold of Southwest Airlines, which until its purchase of AirTran Airways this year boasted an all-Boeing 737 fleet.
“It’s feasible for us to think we have a shot. Now can we crack it? We’ll see,” Hachey said. “But it’s certainly a customer that has talked to us.”