Big Airline Orders Move Ahead Despite Variant

Big Airline Orders Move Ahead Despite Variant


Airlines are moving forward to finalise big commercial aircraft orders despite the newly discovered coronavirus variant and a fresh wave of travel restrictions to contain its spread, Pratt & Whitney’s top sales executive said. “The campaign activity is as high as I’ve seen, maybe ever,” said Rick Deurloo, chief commercial officer of Pratt & Whitney, a unit of Raytheon Technologies Corp.

A decision by Air France-KLM for an order of at least 80 new jets, for example, could be “imminent,” Deurloo said in an interview. Airbus SE and Boeing Co are currently vying for the sale. Qantas Airways Ltd may also decide between the US and European jet-making rivals for its own large order this year, Deurloo said.

The process is still under way at Air France-KLM, and no order has been placed, the company said in a statement. Qantas is in the final stages of selecting an aircraft to replace its domestic fleet of Boeing 737s, a spokesman for the Australian carrier said separately.

Airlines delayed orders last year as the pandemic froze global travel, but are now racing to overhaul their fleets with big orders of more fuel-efficient aircraft. Carriers are also under pressure to reduce their carbon emissions as the industry strives to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

According to Deurloo, companies’ plans for plane purchases haven’t been deterred by the omicron coronavirus variant, which was discovered in South Africa and has since appeared in several other countries.

The popularity of Airbus’ A320neo family of aircraft — powered by engines made by Pratt & Whitney or rival CFM International Inc. — has caused the manufacturer’s backlog to swell and created an incentive for airlines to lock in orders while they still can.

“They have had such great success on the Neo platform that these airlines don’t want to lose” their place in Airbus’ production schedule, he said. “That’s why I don’t see it slowing down at all.”

CFM is the sole engine supplier for Boeing’s 737 Max.