A man stands on a jet bridge beside an Airbus SE A350 XWB passenger jet at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition. (Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

American's Talks on Airbus A330neo Jet Are Over, Boosting Boeing

(Bloomberg) -- Airbus SE has lost a contest with Boeing Co. to sell wide-body jets to American Airlines Group Inc., dealing a blow to the European planemaker’s efforts to boost A330neo orders in the world’s biggest aviation market.

Talks with American over the re-engined model have ended, Airbus said Friday in response to questions from Bloomberg, saying it was unwilling to match the price Boeing offered. The U.S. carrier had been studying the A330neo and Boeing 787 Dreamliner as a possible substitute for an old and no-longer-wanted deal for 22 of Airbus’s A350 twin-aisle aircraft.

American's Talks on Airbus A330neo Jet Are Over, Boosting Boeing

American, the world’s largest airline, said it hasn’t yet made any final decisions on the aircraft order.

“We are continuing to look at our wide-body options and are focused on making the right decision for American,” the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline said in an emailed statement. Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman also declined to comment.

American had planned the A350 as a replacement for Boeing 767s and 777s that it’s slowly retiring. But the carrier put off delivery of the A350s in both 2016 and 2017, and said earlier this year it was looking at Boeing’s Dreamliner and the A330-900 instead. American’s president, Robert Isom, has told pilots the airline can’t profitably operate the small fleet of 22 aircraft.

The Dreamliner does “many of the same missions” as the 767s and 777s, Isom has said. The airline will have 40 of its original order of 42 787s by the end of this year. It also holds options to add another 52. By converting the A350 order to A330s, American could avoid penalties for canceling the original contract.

Airbus said it has a series of ongoing sales campaigns for the A330neo with more than 100 airlines that currently operate the older version of the plane. The 250-seat A330-800 is on track for its first flight in the middle of this year, with the bigger -900 variant set to enter into service around the same time to launch operator TAP -- Air Portugal.

Airbus is even considering a cargo model to help lift sales of the A330neo, the upgraded version of the company’s smallest wide-body, which has struggled in the marketplace. The aircraft has garnered 214 orders, but lost its only sale of the -800 this month after Hawaiian Airlines switched to Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.

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