French airplane makers Airbus are feeling bullish about their prospects of getting a bigger chunk of the Japanese airline market which has, up until Oct. 7, pre-dominantly controlled by their United States-based rival airplane manufacturers Boeing. Airbus has just recently tied up a major contract with Japan Airlines Co. Ltd. (JAL), one of the Asian nation’s leading carriers, for 31 new wide-body jets – the Airbus A350 – and Airbus CEO Fabrice Brégier, speaking in Tokyo on Monday, said that he expects to double Airbus’s market share in Japan by 2020, to 25 percent.
But Brégier is predicting more beyond that, saying that within 20 to 25 years, Airbus will have 50 percent of the island nation’s market, disrupting Boeing’s long monopoly. That being said, Airbus is still playing coy when asked about its next Japan deal. “There are opportunities in all areas,” Sophie Pendaries, head of Airbus product marketing said at a briefing at the company’s headquarters in Toulouse, France. The French airplane company’s flagship model the A350 is scheduled to enter service next year, and competes directly – in Japan and elsewhere globally – against two Boeing models, the 777 widebody and the slightly smaller 787 Dreamliner. The latter has been plagued with delays and technical glitches that have only recently been resolved. Pendaries refuses to make any comparison or link between the 787’s problems and Airbus’s closing of the A350 deal. “I would not make any link (between the two issues),” Pendaries says. But, she adds, “It’s clear that the A350 interest is high.”
Airbus and JAL affirmed the deal worth 950 billion yen (approx. US$9.5 billion) for the 31 A350 jets, which will be delivered over the next ten years. JAL has the option, based on their agreement, to request for 25 more A350 jets. Should this take place, Airbus would be securing 56 aircrafts for JAL. Despite the history of partnership between JAL and Boeing, the latter’s problem on the grounding of its 787 Dreamliner is said to have cost the aircraft maker. But exactly which other Japanese airlines will embrace the A350 remains to be seen. All Nippon Airways, Japan’s other major carrier, was the Dreamliner’s first customer and so far has stuck with Boeing.