The two smallest versions of the next generation single aisle have received little attention. With the newest version, the 737-7 having just taken to the skies for the first time, there’s a marked lack of excitement.
The fact is that the 737-7 carries just 4 people more than the A319neo, and is possibly marginally more economic – on paper – has had little impact on its prospects.
Neither of these aircraft are much in demand. There are just 55 orders for the A319neo and 65 for the Max-7. Nobody else is expressing any interest past the handful of airlines who ordered them. Southwest is responsible for 55 of the 65 Max-7 orders.
Furthermore, put the numbers into perspective – Airbus could build all of the A319neo’s in 6 weeks at current rates, and Boeing in 8 for the Max-7. So why have they bothered?
The cost of developing them per unit sold right now is high, but it’s a long term gamble that the market could change, that the current operators like Alaska may come back to the -7, maybe easyJet will come back for more A319’s.
There is a lot of time to run these programmes. The max and the neo have ten years to run before there is any chance of a successor. For Airbus the feeling of why did we do this isn’t new. The A330-800 now doesn’t have a single customer, few airlines like to be first – but there are hundreds of A332’s out there that need replacing longer term.
It’s a long term game. The problem for the smallest single aisles however isn’t the obvious contender. It’s aircraft like the Embraer E2 and the CSeries. These two effectively undermine the entire rationale behind the small Boeing and Airbus.
The CSeries isn’t cheap, but, it’s modernity, cutting edge tech and super-efficient engines give it the combination of range and economy to compete. Those who use it – Swiss and Air Baltic, Korean, soon Delta, have all seen the light. As its unit cost drops – especially with Airbus procurement behind it, the CSeries will begin to make more and more sense for a greater number of airlines.
What then for the 737-7 and A319neo? A quiet footnote at the bottom of an annual statement announcing their demise.