IAG chief says frustration with Airbus a factor in Boeing purchase

Willie Walsh blames delayed jetliner deliveries for €21.3bn deal with US multinational

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh. The outline deal for 200 737s ‘should be an indication not just to Airbus but to everybody that we’re unhappy with their performance’, Mr Walsh said. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh. The outline deal for 200 737s ‘should be an indication not just to Airbus but to everybody that we’re unhappy with their performance’, Mr Walsh said. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said frustration with Airbus over late jetliner deliveries was a factor in his decision to place a $24 billion (€21.3 billion) order for Boeing’s grounded 737 Max model.

Cost and a desire to have a mixed narrow-body fleet weren’t the only considerations in the purchase, with IAG experiencing a 70-day delay on average for handovers of the A320neo aircraft, which competes with the Max, Mr Walsh said.

The outline deal for 200 737s, revealed at the Paris Air Show last month, “should be an indication not just to Airbus but to everybody that we’re unhappy with their performance”, Walsh said in Brussels. “I know everybody interprets it as an issue of price – it’s not.”

Airbus has been battling to recover A320 delivery schedules after repeated production and design delays with engines, and more recently, the challenge of manufacturing bespoke cabins. A spokesman said the company, based Toulouse, France, is working with customers to agree on revised dates.

Sigh off

While Airbus has pledged to compete for IAG’s order, announced as a letter of intent and not yet part of Boeing’s official backlog, Walsh said he fully intended to sign off on the deal and won’t be approaching the European manufacturer, adding that he doesn’t want to be “solely dependent” on one company for his group’s entire narrow-body fleet.

For Boeing, the purchase by the British Airways parent marked a surprise show of faith in the Max from a respected buyer after the jet was grounded in March following two fatal crashes in five months. Walsh, a former 737 pilot, said unparalleled scrutiny of the plane before it resumes flying should restore faith in the model among travellers. – Bloomberg