A major trend highlighted as Xiamen shocks with A321neo order

Chinese airline Xiamen has been a long term Boeing customer, and its almost shocking decision to buy 10 A321neo’s, announced yesterday, goes to the root of a serious problem many airlines are facing.

Several recent orders from a number of airlines have indicated a growing trend, and it goes both ways, Airbus haven’t been immune either.

Xiamen 737

Airlines are fed up with massive groundings that last months and even years of subsequent issues. They’re fed up with relying on one manufacturer for all of their aircraft.

Boeing have had it worst. The 797/Rolls Royce engine issue rolls on largely unreported. It’s been a case of one correction after another leading to another problem. Air New Zealand and Virgin Atlantic are quietly fuming – ANZ ordered different engines for its 78J’s.

The MAX issues have caused real headaches for airlines globally. They also have no idea if the type will have issues in the future.

Yet on the other side British Airways especially and IAG as a whole, felt it was over dependent on single aisle Airbus types and decided to buy – and price and a deal were big considerations, 200 737MAX‘s, taking full advantage of Boeing’s woes.

Virgin Atlantic was widely expected to buy more 787’s and reduce its dependence on what by then would be a third type of aircraft, down to two. A35K and 789 would have made for an easier to manage fleet. The order for the A330neo was as a much a reaction to 787 problems as it was the aircraft’s capability.

One of the golden rules of operating an airline profitably is to keep costs down, maintenance and interoperability are key to doing that. Yet while that might apply most of the time, and if you have a very large fleet it works all the more, smaller fleets can be seriously hurt by major technical problems. Norwegian was seriously punished cost wise over both 787 and MAX.

Airlines like RyanAir operate such huge fleets of one type that the risk of everything being out of action at once because of rolling renewals and retirements is rare. For them it’s about grinning and baring the pain until it gets through the other side. It’s a business and it’s money, emotional attachment to aircraft doesn’t exist.

In any event airlines have learnt a sharp lesson. Either be prepared to put up with the pain of mass groundings or diversify.

Many, from the biggest to the smallest seem to be doing just that.