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ANA silent on Airbus alternative to Boeing

AFP-JIJI

All Nippon Airways Co. says the composition of its fleet is under discussion after Airbus announced its intent to scoop up half the Japanese market.

The European manufacturer is riding high after bagging a landmark $9.5 billion order from Japan Airlines Co. earlier this month, and wasted no time in setting out its aims in a country that has traditionally been a Boeing Co. stronghold.

Airbus has a 13 percent share of the Japanese market and that figure will almost double to 25 percent by 2020, thanks to orders already in hand. Further down the road it wants to be the maker of one of every two planes in operation in Japan.

“We are going to raise our market share in Japan,” Airbus chief Fabrice Bregier told a business forum in Tokyo on Monday, adding that he wanted to boost that figure to “as close to 50 percent as possible.”

JAL’s announcement two weeks ago that it had agreed to buy 31 airplanes from Airbus set the aviation industry buzzing with speculation that its competitor may follow suit. Bregier has said he would welcome business with ANA.

An industry source said earlier this month that ANA, which is known to be looking at aircraft to replace part of its fleet of Boeing 777s, was expected to order around 30 new planes within six months.

The source said Airbus and Boeing were going head to head to win this order.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for ANA, whose hangars are filled with Boeing-made planes, said there had been no decision as yet.

“As we are currently studying planes for our fleet, we have no firm plan at the moment,” he said.

Bregier has acknowledged that the lofty goal of grabbing a big part of Boeing’s business — in place since Japan’s postwar reconstruction — will take time.

“For many years we asked why our market share in Japan was so low,” he said. “People thought we would never sell aircraft to JAL, and in fact we had always failed until now.”

JAL and ANA were both badly hit by the well-publicized problems with Boeing’s Dreamliner.

The lightweight plane — hailed for its fuel-efficiency but marred by years of production delays — was grounded globally in January after lithium-ion batteries overheated on two different planes, with one of them catching fire while parked.

The Japanese airlines, which are the single biggest operators of the Dreamliner, have put their fleets back into service but are demanding compensation from Boeing for the lost revenue.