Re: UA A321 ?

Date:         12 Oct 98 00:02:50 
From: (H Andrew Chuang)
Organization: Concentric Internet Services
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In article <airliners.1998.1541@ohare.Chicago.COM>,
  Evan McElravy <> wrote:


> >MD updated the DC-9 by stretching it (i.e., the MD-80) and was only
> >mildly successful in the market place.  Boeing updated the B737 and more
> >than made up for the mis-sized B727 replacement (i.e., B757).
> >Nevertheless, in retrospect, by leaving the 150-seat, trans-Continental
> >sector open, Boeing did allow Airbus a huge opportunity to move into the
> >single-aisle market.
> Only by comparison to the 737 was the MD-80 "only mildly successful." 1,200
> sold is hardly a mild success.

At least two of you are disagreeing with me on what I considered to be a
relatively neutral comment.   In terms of number sold, there are only
six aircraft types that have reached the 1,000-mark, namely, the B707,
727, 737, 747, MD-80, and the A320.  Thus, by this measure, the MD-80 is
quite successful.  However, everything is relative, isn't it?  In
particular, there are two reasons why I consider the MD-80 to be only
"mildly" successful:

1. The MD-80 had a really slow start.  It had to take some marketing
   "ingenuity" (walk-away leases with AA) before the sales of the MD-80
   took off.  (AA's MD-80 fleet account for about a quarter of the MD-80

2. Before the US Deregulation, the DC-9 outsold the first-generation
   B737 by about a margin of two-to-one.  However, Boeing was able to
   reverse the trend by responding to the MD-80 with the second-
   generation B737.  The DC-9 was the market leader and later became the
   second best by a big margin. I simply can't label that product as a
   "huge" success.

> Does this mean you would consider the 757 to be a flop?

I won't say the B757 is a flop, but it's definitely not a success.
Boeing built the B757 to replace the B727, the most successful jet liner
at that time, and was confident enough to cease the B727 production soon
after the B757 entered into service.   The sales of the B757 was
lackluster until the late '80s.  However, the B757 sales has not picked
up in this current up cycle.  It was launched almost 20 years ago, and
it has yet to reach the 1,000 mark.  For a narrow body, I don't think
Boeing can be too proud of its B757 *marketing* (performance-wise, it's
another story), especially taking into account that the B757 does not
have one single competitor.  Boeing simply sized the airplane wrong (at
the requests of British Airways and Eastern, as it has been pointed out
several time in this forum).

> >Thus, comparing the second-genration B737 and the A320 is comparing
> >apples and oranges.  They don't even cater to the same market (but
> >there is some overlap).  The third-generation B737 is a more direct
> >competitor of the A320.
> I've said it before and I'll say it again: this argument doesn't wash. The
> A320 was designed to be an all-around versatile aircraft to replace aging
> 727s and snag orders from the 737 and, more importantly, the MD-80. The
> original A320 was a little large for that task and AI produced the A319.
> Just becuase an aircraft has superior perfromance doesn't mean it is an
> apples and oranges comparison. Remember that the MD-80 had greater seating
> capacity and range than the 733 (150/3,014sm to 126/ 2,500sm). The 737-700
> was a "catch-up" aircraft, albeit a damn fine one.

Well, let's start from the beginning.  Before the widebody era, Boeing
had three designs to cater to three different market sectors: namely,
the four-engine B707 for long haul (inter-continental) routes, the
three-engine B727 for medium-haul (trans-continetal) routes, and the
two-engine B737 for short hops.  After the US Deregulation, there was a
sudden increase in demand of short-haul airplanes that are ideal for
spoke-and-hub operations.  Boeing updated the B737 with a more efficient
engine, but it's still a short-haul aircraft without trans-continental
capabilities.  If Boeing's intent at that time was to increase the range
of the B737, they would have redesigned the wing, just like they did
with the third-generation B737.

The A320 is a medium-haul, 150-seat aircraft.  It fills the B727 gap
that Boeing had left open when they marketed the B757 as the B727
replacement.  Airbus was smart enough to spot the opening and built the
A320.  The A320 has never been a *direct* competitor of the B737 just
like the B727 has never competed directly against the first-generation
B737.  (Similarly, the A321 is not a direct competitor of the
longer-range B757 even though the two designs have similar capacities.)
In addition, the majority of the second-generation B737 in the market
are the -300 which is a much smaller aircraft than the A320.  The
similarly-sized A319 did not enter into service until a few years ago.
The only overlap is the A320 and the B737-400, but only in terms of
capacity.  The -400 has a shorter range capability which I can't
emphasize enough.   With a larger wing, it's not a big surprise that the
A320-sized -800 is the best-selling B737NG model, because most of the
-800s have been ordered to replace the B727!