Embraer, Bombardier Sharpen Duel as Airlines Eye Upgraded Jets
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March 29, 2018, 5:00 AM EDT By Julie Johnsson, Mary Schlangenstein, and Frederic Tomesco
- United, JetBlue, Air France-KLM consider E2, C Series planes
- Competition is next potential theater of Airbus-Boeing battle
Embraer SA's first new narrow-body jet is set to fly into commercial service next week to take on Bombardier Inc. But that's just a prelude to the bigger battle emerging between heavyweights Boeing Co. and Airbus SE.
At stake: possible orders from Air France-KLM, United Continental Holdings Inc., and JetBlue Airways Corp. The sales campaigns are a key test for Embraer and Bombardier as they seek to prove the potential of a new generation of 100- to 150-seat narrow-body jets -- a market sliver that Airbus and Boeing have largely abandoned for bigger, more profitable models.
The twist is that the order contests are poised to become the next battleground in a broader struggle between the aerospace duopolists. While Airbus prepares to take control of Bombardier's C Series program, Boeing is deep into talks with Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil-based Embraer to form a commercial-jet venture.
It remains unclear whether the market realignment and fuss over the dueling new aircraft, both powered by Pratt & Whitney engines, will stir even greater airline interest and sales. The 100-seat jetliner market "has historically been a wasteland," said aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia, although "Embraer has accomplished the impressive feat of cultivating it."
From the banter traded by executives at Embraer and Bombardier, both companies are confident of success.