Issue No. 747

Why Are So Few Airlines Ordering Widebodies?

Boeing’s MAX still isn’t flying. Airbus can’t get its NEOs delivered on time. But at least there’s still buoyant demand for narrowbody aircraft. Not so for widebodies.

Last week, another widebody blow: United, in announcing a big order for narrowbody NEO XLRs, quietly added that it’s no longer interested in taking the twin-aisle A350s it ordered 10 years earlier. That’s not exactly what it said, but by deferring the start of deliveries until 2027, it’s essentially what it means.

United, remember, ordered 25 A350-900s in 2009, before its merger with Continental the following year. It expected to start taking the planes in 2016.
United’s tale of waning enthusiasm for A350s is not unique. Delta, after receiving some, also pushed back future deliveries. American cancelled its A350 order outright. LATAM, no longer interested in the A350s ordered by pre-merger TAM, got Delta to buy four it’s already flying and another 10 it has on order. Emirates, at the Dubai Airshow, made Airbus happy by ordering 50 A350-900s. But in 2007 it ordered 70, in a deal that was later scrapped. Just as importantly, Emirates refrained from ordering any A330 NEOs, a plane that’s won large orders from only AirAsia X, Delta, and some leasing firms. Cebu Pacific, Garuda, TAP Air Portugal, and Virgin Atlantic also are customers but with fewer than 20 orders each. Hawaiian Airlines, once a customer for the never-produced A350-800, last year cancelled its order for the yet-to-be-produced A330 NEO-800.

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