Rumours…LOT and BA are they? Will they? Are there enough engines to restart MAX?

LOT Polish airlines is busy trying to expand with a stated aim of becoming the primary long haul airline in East/Central Europe.

So much so that it’s about to move into a new airport at Warsaw and has set up a permanent base in neighbouring Budapest, capital of Hungary, which has virtually no long haul at all. Vienna or Warsaw were the closest by rail or road.

So the rumour is that LOT has purchased three 777’s from Singapore airlines due in Q2 and that they’re training staff on working them. The airline didn’t deny the buy, nor confirm it, but it did say it wasn’t training staff. Staff on the other hand beg to differ according to Polish press sources.

The next is BA – again no word from them as they won’t want to spike arch-rival Virgin Atlantic’s interest or obstruction, but rumour has it they want to fly long haul from Manchester.

The demise of Thomas Cook at the airport has left a big gap in the market, Virgin Atlantic have a long established and growing operation there, though it is quite seasonal. Is now the time to move in? Frankly I’d be amazed if they didn’t.

Manchester is gravely underserved for such a huge conurbation. Las Vegas and Miami are both all year round popular destinations from the airport, along with New York. On top of that Emirates, Etihad and Qatar, as well as Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific all have a long term presence there. American and Delta also fly to the city, never mind all the European majors and their connections in Paris, Frankfurt, Munich and Amsterdam.

BA also started flying short haul, mostly seasonal from Birmingham (BHX) a couple of years back. If anywhere needed long haul connections across the Atlantic, there’s a place to start.

LEAP-1B engines may be in short supply when the MAX returns to build – and there are growing indicators that might not be until late in 2020. Dennis Muilenburg’s assertions of a ‘short temporary stoppage’ are being quietly wound back by Boeing as it seeks to manage expectations.

The manufacturer CFM International, a GE-Safran joint venture, has said they’d planned on a 58/42% split on the 1A/1B engine with Airbus getting the 58%.

The max capacity is 2,200 units a year and next year they’d planned on ramping up to 1,500, but with Boeing building no aircraft that leaves them with no customer and no need. So the ramp up will be delayed throwing them and their component suppliers an unwanted curveball, as they all paid for new manufacturing machinery and advanced material purchases. They’ll have to sit on the costs and wait.

The benefit may well be that with more time and less pressure the problems and improvements engines have been suffering from can be worked out more quickly and resolved for both Airbus and Boeing. The disadvantage is that they can’t expect the manufacturer to start building engines at full pace without months of warning. Multiply that down the supply chain across the board and it’s a massive headache for all the component providers big and small on the entire MAX supply line.