* Planemakers make competing claims on jet performance
* Airbus ad depicts Boeing aircraft as Pinocchio
* Boeing stands by performance claims
* Clash reflects rising competition for market share
By Tim Hepher
PARIS, Nov 26 Airbus and Boeing have clashed
over the performance of their latest revamped models as the
aerospace companies battle for market share by offering fuel
savings to cash-starved airlines.
The dispute is being splashed across the columns of
specialist industry magazines in a series of negative ads as the
world's dominant aircraft makers battle to maintain their share
of the $100 billion a year commercial airliner market.
In the latest exchange, Airbus ran an advertisement in
Aviation Week on Monday accusing its rival of "exaggerating the
capabilities" of both the 737 and the latest 747 models.
The ad featured a Boeing aircraft with an elongated nose in
the style of Pinocchio under the headline: "Why is our
competitor stretching the truth?"
Airbus sales chief John Leahy said the European aircraft
maker had chosen the Pinocchio theme in response to recent
Boeing advertisements claiming a massive advantage for Boeing
"They are blatantly misrepresenting the truth by orders of
magnitude," Leahy told Reuters. "What is going on is just over
Boeing defended its advertising.
"We believe in - and history has shown - the superior
performance of our products and services. We stand behind our
performance claims," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes spokesman
"Ultimately, our customers will decide based on their
experience and analysis relative to their needs."
The exchange is the latest evidence of tensions that have
escalated steadily since both companies took a gamble by
tweaking their most popular models to offer fuel savings.
The decisions triggered an avalanche of orders, first for
the revamped Airbus A320neo and then the Boeing 737 MAX. But
industry sources say that has not prevented prices from coming
under pressure as each side fights for market share.
With oil prices representing about 40 percent of airline
operating costs, every litre of fuel saved represents
potentially valuable business for aircraft and engine makers.
"This is an industry that thrives on producing incremental
products, where just a couple of percentage points in
performance can make a dramatic difference," said aerospace
analyst Richard Aboulafia of Virginia-based Teal Group.
"There is no prize for being second."
The Boeing 737 is the U.S. company's most popular aircraft
and competes with the Airbus A320 in the largest segment of the
aircraft market, estimated at $2 trillion over 20 years.
Both planemakers are bringing out revamped versions of these
roughly 150-seat jets from around the middle of the decade.
Boeing says its 737 MAX 8 will cost 8 percent less to
operate per seat than the revamped A320neo. Airbus says the
Airbus aircraft has a 3.3 percent cost advantage per seat.
Much of that discrepancy is due to a basic disagreement over
the relative merits of the existing generation of aircraft.
Boeing says its 737 is already 8 percent more efficient per
seat than the current A320. Airbus says the roughly 50/50 market
split in recent years indicates the aircraft are comparable.
"I will claim an extra couple of percent better for mine and
they should be claiming a couple of percent better for theirs,
and if you talk to most airlines, they say they come out about
equal," Leahy said in a telephone interview.
Such contradictory claims are also being made for some of
their largest aircraft.
Boeing's 747-8 is a stretched 467-seat version of its
legendary jumbo jet and is designed to compete with the 525-seat
Airbus A380 superjumbo, the world's largest airliner.
In ads, Boeing says the total trip costs of the 747-8 are 26
percent less than an A380. Airbus says the 747-8 has 10 percent
lower trip costs, but that the A380 is 30 percent bigger,
allowing airlines to gain by filling up the extra seats.
Rivalry between Airbus and Boeing comes as no surprise, but
rhetoric has sharpened as Boeing looks set to recover the top
spot in the industry by out selling Airbus this year. Airbus
says its rival is merely catching up after a record European
year in 2011.
Industry analysts and executives say competition has also
intensified since Ray Conner stepped up from being Boeing sales
chief to become president of the commercial division in June.
Rivalries in aerospace are fierce and Leahy has himself been
accused by Boeing executives of overstepping boundaries at
airshow appearances, but detailed attacks are rare.
Monday's Airbus advertisement is not Pinocchio's first
appearance in the take no-prisoners world of aviation.
At the Farnborough Airshow in 1994, the head of Boeing's
jetliner unit compared an Airbus executive to Pinocchio in a
spat over market share, according to Flight International.
In 2010, Ryanair Holdings Plc Chief Executive
Michael O'Leary apologised and paid damages to top European
rival Stelios Haji-Iouannou for depicting the easyJet Plc
founder as Pinocchio and suggesting he was lying about