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Buzz in the blogosphere
Who ever knew that the musings of an airplane marketeer could set off such a buzz in the blogosphere?
Turns out, since I started rambling in cyberspace, this page has gotten quite a bit of attention. I think it’s all good. And I just want to say that this journal, or blog, or whatever you want to call it, is in its infancy, and as we move forward you’ll see all sorts of neat enhancements, links, etc.
So, keep this bookmark hot. There’s more to come
Now, back to the question that I asked last week. How do you want to fly?
The answer is obvious. We travel by air to save time, and as kids we all learned that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. That’s point to point. It is also the most efficient way!
Let’s take a look at some industry data which contain some pretty clear answers on how airlines have been responding to our desires to save time.
Since 1984, air travel has tripled. And in that same time, flight frequencies have more than doubled and city pairs have almost doubled. But here’s the key thing: average airplane size remained about the same.
Let’s narrow the time frame a bit to the last 10 years. Since 1995, world air travel has increased 45%, and frequencies have increased slightly more. City pairs have also increased by more than 30%. And guess what? At the same time, average airplane size has decreased.
So what’s going on? The data says airlines have responded to the growth in air travel by increasing the non-stop city pairs and by increasing the frequency of routes. Airlines realize - you guessed it - that people want to fly where they want to go, when they want to go.
Think about it. Don’t you want non-stop flights and lots of choices so you can pick the most direct, most convenient flight? I just don’t think that, given a choice, folks want to fly from hub to hub and then have to get on yet another connecting flight or two.
And when the 7E7 Dreamliner takes to the air, it will directly link more cities because it has the range and the efficiencies to create incredible new city pairs - and even more frequencies. Because that’s the way we want to fly. It’s in the data.
After the unveiling
What a week — I’m sure the folks who put on the big event in Toulouse are relieved that it has finally happened. It was quite a show from what I have seen, and I’m sure a good time was had by all. We’ll see if President Bush’s inaugural can match the festivities!
Admittedly, I’ve spent much of the week offering an alternative view of what the A380 stands for. And I think the world’s media have it about right. Boeing and Airbus have a legitimate difference of opinion on where the future of commercial aviation is going, and we’ve placed our bets accordingly.
Boeing believes the future will continue to follow the trend of more point-to-point, non-stop flights with more frequencies and more choices for passengers. Airbus believes in the superjumbo and a future dominated by more hub-to-hub traffic with more connecting flights for passengers.
The debate will continue, and the verdict will be decided in the years to come. The judges will be the airlines and all of us, the flying public.
So how do you want to fly?
The A380 rolls out
Today is a blue shirt and red tie day. I’m doing some TV interviews on what Boeing thinks of the A380 on the day of the big unveiling event.
And in the days leading up to it, I have been asked by more than a dozen reporters on our reaction to the new airplane. Here is what I’ve told them. Without question the A380 is a great engineering and industrial achievement. We congratulate Airbus on reaching this significant milestone. The people who designed it and put it together should be proud.
But that isn’t all I have said. Along with the A380 being an engineering marvel it also represents a very large misjudgment about how most passengers want to travel and how most airlines operate.
The A380 does not mark the beginning of a new stage in commercial aviation; it is the crowning achievement of a bygone era. An era when passengers had to deal with multiple connections and few flight choices. Industry data from the past 10 to 15 years is clear: demand for air travel is up, the number of flights and the number of cities with non-stop services is up, yet the average size of airplanes flying today is down.
Airbus is calling for a significant shift in recent trends. It believes we will all fly from hub to hub, with one or more connecting flights to complete our journey. Boeing believes airlines will continue to give passengers what they want — more frequency choices and more non-stop, point-to-point flights.
Consider that Airbus says London’s Heathrow will use the most A380s during the next two decades. Yet, the 747’s share of departures at Heathrow hasn’t changed during the past twenty years. Airbus lists Tokyo’s two airports and Hong Kong’s as major A380 hubs. But at those three airports, the 747 as a percentage of departures is about half of what it was in the 1990s. If large airplanes solve congestion, the 747 departures would have been going up.
Either Airbus knows for certain that the trends of the past 10 to 15 years are about to do an immediate U-turn, or it has misread the state of aviation as it really is today and where it’s going in the future.
So I applaud the achievement. But the A380 is flying into the headwind of reality. It is truly a big airplane for a small market.
Happy New Year, and welcome to my new web journal. Talk about a new year’s resolution - I’m starting the year by entering the internet, and I’m looking forward to it.
I hope it will help solve one of my biggest frustrations - not being able to talk with everyone as often as I like about what’s going on in our industry and our company. Either I’m in a different time zone, or in a meeting or at another commitment, so this web space can be a place where you can go to find out my thoughts and opinions.
And in the weeks ahead as we figure out more about blogging technology, we’ll be adding more features, so it can be an additional good source of information on BCA and the industry.
But you’ll still be seeing and hearing from me plenty in 2005 - my travel calendar is already filling up fast. And I think it’s going to be a great year. I think we’ll see the market continue to rebound, and that will be good news for everybody.
Looking back before the dust settles on 2004, it was a great year of building momentum for BCA. Our orders went up, with 272 in ‘04 compared to 239 in ‘03. It was a super year for widebodies for us. The 777 had a ton of great news - big orders, the first deliveries of the -300ER, the progress on the -200LR and the offering of the 777 Freighter. We had 10 orders for the 747, and the 7E7 had one of the best launch years of any commercial airplane program.
As the orders continue to come in, we’ll see how the 7E7 stacks up with the other best sellers. In fact, that comparison could be a good journal entry, so stay tuned. But in the meantime, don’t worry too much about that 200 milestone. The interest in the airplane has been terrific, and the program is right where it needs to be. It will be fun watching the 7E7 this year - there will be a lot of great technology coming out of the program in ‘05.
As we have researched effective web logs, I learned that a cardinal rule of blogging is to keep the entries short and to the point. So I’ll save some more thoughts on 2004 for another entry. Hope you enjoyed reading this, and stay tuned.