IAG Boeing 737 MAX LOI Intended To Combat Airbus Captivity

New details have emerged from the very strange Paris Air Show IAG order for 200 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Not only was the ‘order’ a letter of intent (not even a memorandum of understanding), but it was for the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft that has still not been deemed safe to fly.

IAG has a letter of intent for 200 737 MAX aircraft. Source: Boeing

So why would IAG, owners of both British Airways, Iberia and others, sign a letter for Boeing? According to a reporting by Flight Global, it was to stop the domination of Airbus.

What are the details?

The Boeing 737 MAX 8 was involved in two crashes a few months ago which killed over 360 passengers and grounded the aircraft. Airlines and aviation authorities are currently meeting in Montreal to discuss the steps required to solve this situation and get the aircraft back in the air.

At the recent Paris Air Show, IAG ordered 200 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, a mix of both -8s and -9s, to be delivered around 2023 onwards. It is a bit strange that an airline as major as IAG would throw themselves behind Boeing at the risk of PR damage.

Boeing 737 MAX
There are four different 737 MAX variants available for airlines. Photo: Boeing.

But according to Willy Walsh, CEO of IAG, it was worth it to not be as reliant on Airbus.

During a webcasted panel session at the ACI Europe annual congress in the Cypriot city of Limassol on 26 June, Walsh noted that there had been ‘concern’ within the airline group for some time that it was becoming too reliant on the European airframer,” reported Flight Global, who went on to attribute Walsh saying that it was “Unhealthy” to rely only on one manufacturer.

Does IAG rely too much on Airbus?

If we were to look at the total fleet for IAG, we would notice the following:

  • Iberia operates an all-Airbus fleet, with 87 aircraft
  • British Airways operates 227 aircraft, with only 122 from Boeing. None are short-haul
  • Aer Lingus operates an all-Airbus fleet of 49 aircraft
  • Vueling also operates an all-airbus fleet of 123 aircraft, 86 of which are A320s

And according to their website:

“Fleet modernization will continue in coming years with further deliveries of 92 Airbus A320neo series aircraft, 41 Airbus A350s, and 12 Boeing 787s.”

British Airways Airbus A320 Tenerife Emergency
British Airways uses only Airbus A320s for their short haul fleet. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

With so many Airbus A320s making up their short haul fleet, it is no wonder that IAG is nervous that they are a bit over-extended with one airplane manufacturer.

Originally, back in 2012, IAG wanted to incorporate more 737 aircraft into their fleet makeup. But including a whole new type in their fleet would have been very expensive. However, now in 2019 their capacity to operate many different subtypes has improved and they feel ready to order the new Boeing 737 MAX.

IAG has said that they look forward to the 737 MAX getting a clean bill of health and back in the skies.

What do you think? Should IAG be so quick to cozy up to Boeing? Let us know in the comments.