Airbus CEO Taking Competition From COMAC’s C919 Seriously

COMAC is working through the certification process for its C919 aircraft. The aircraft currently only has significant orders within China. Despite this, Airbus’ CEO isn’t ruling the aircraft out as competition for its narrowbody families, as mentioned in yesterday’s annual results call.

COMAC, C919, Airbus Competition
Airbus’ CEO is taking competition from the COMAC C919 seriously. Photo: Getty Images

COMAC’s C919 is an aircraft that has faced several bumps on the road to certification. However, recently it has looked as though the Chinese manufacturer has started to organize its eggs into one basket. Last year Simple Flying reported that the aircraft’s design had been finalized three and a half years after its first flight. More recently, another delay has been experienced with icing trials delayed until the autumn.

Taking COMAC seriously

During the question and answer portion of the Airbus results press call yesterday, the European manufacturer’s CEO Guillaume Faury mentioned that he took the C919 seriously. Faury commented,

“There are many challenges and I think it’s too early to say to what degree [COMAC] will be able to compete with Boeing and Airbus. But we are taking them seriously and we are watching carefully what’s happening there.”

Airbus A321neo
The aircraft could have the ability to compete against the A320neo family and the Boeing 737 MAX. Photo: Airbus

Despite this, it seems like the threat of competition isn’t imminent. Faury pointed out that while he considers it a competitive product, “it will take time for the C919 to find its place”. He added,

“We’ve seen other players in other main regions of the world trying to enter into the regional market, or even commercial aviation, unsuccessfully.”

Will the C919 be serious competition?

At first, the C919 is unlikely to be serious competition for the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX. Airbus and Boeing are both well established in the market, with good relationships with most airlines. In contrast, COMAC is yet to establish itself outside of China.

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While the aircraft will likely be quickly adopted in China, it may take longer to spread worldwide. If notable airlines outside of China utilized the aircraft and had success with it, this could sway other airlines to follow suit.

Ryanair Michael O'Leary
Ryanair has a serious expression of interest in the C919. Photo: Getty Images

So far, one big European carrier has come out in support of the aircraft. Ryanair first placed a memorandum of understanding for the C919 in 2011 at the Paris Air Show. However, following this, there was reasonably little new news.

Last year Simple Flying got the chance to sit down with the airline’s CEO, Michael O’Leary. He told us,

“We’re still committed to the COMAC program… All airlines and customers need to see the emergence of a third manufacturer to replace McDonnell Douglas and the Chinese would be a very welcome addition.”

Do you think the COMAC C919 will become serious competition for Airbus and Boeing? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!