United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby recently made an undisclosed trip to France to meet with Airbus over a potential A321 order.
Mr. Kirby Goes To Toulouse: As Boeing Falters, United Airlines’ CEO Travels To France For Airbus Meeting
Last week, Kirby questioned the future of the Boeing 737 MAX 10, lamenting that “I think the MAX 9 grounding is probably the straw that broke the camel’s back for us, we’re gonna at least build a plan that doesn’t have the MAX 10 in it.” He later clarified that while not canceling the order, United is no longer planning a fleet with 737 MAX 10 in it:
“We are taking it out of our internal plans. And so we’re taking out of our internal plans and we’ll be working on what that means exactly with Boeing. But Boeing is not going to be able to meet their contractual deliveries on at least many of those airplanes. And I’ll just leave it at that.”
With that subtext, Reuters reports that Kirby recently journeyed to Toulouse, France to meet with Airbus over the feasibility of a wider A321 order as a replacement for the 737 Max 10. No agreement was reached.
But, Bloomberg reports Airbus is inquiring about buying back A321neo delivery positions from its customers, with the plan to create a package to offer United…if feasible.
How Does A350 Play Into This?
Meanwhile, while United is loath to talk about it, the Airbus A350 order remains on the book. Stretching back as far as 2010, the A350 order has been progressively delayed until 2030 while United builds out its fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets.
United currently has 45 A350 jets on order and will use these jets, if it takes delivery, to replace its fleet of Boeing 777 jets.
It is thought that Airbus wants United to commit to a firmer timeline for A350 deliveries as part of any deal to acquire more A321 jets.
United’s Kirby recently made a previously undisclosed trip to France to discuss an alternative to the Boeing 737 MAX 10 with Airbus. While the A321 is the most in-demand aircraft in the world right now, the thought of peeling away business from one of Boeing’s most valuable customers is certain to at least prompt an effort from Airbus to find a solution.