IAG Just Gave Boeing A Massive Boost When It Needed It Most – I Wish It Hadn’t


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Yesterday, at the Paris Airshow, the news broke that IAG (the parent company of British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, etc…) had signed a letter of intent to purchase 200 Boeing aircraft. Had that been the end of that particular piece of news I doubt many people would have raised an eyebrow, but the fact that the aircraft IAG says it ‘intends’ to buy is the Boeing 737 MAX makes this interesting.

LOT 737 MAX 8 – Image courtesy of Wiki Commons Media

The Boeing 737 MAX is the aircraft at the center of two recent air disasters, the aircraft that we now know Boeing cobbled together in haste (as it panicked that Airbus was gaining a competitive advantage), the aircraft that was fitted with a critical flight control system that Boeing chose not to mention to any of the operating airlines, the aircraft whose FAA certification process was, from a layperson’s point of view, a joke, and, most importantly it’s an aircraft that is currently grounded worldwide.

Yes, IAG just said it ‘intends’ to order 200 frames of an aircraft which, as things stand, is not allowed to fly passengers anywhere in the world.

I’m going to lay my cards out on the table here and admit that this annoys me. It annoys me a lot.

I’m not annoyed or outraged that IAG is buying an aircraft responsible for killing over 300 people and I’m not annoyed or outraged that IAG is buying an aircraft that, up until now, has been a potential flying death-trap – I’m annoyed because IAG just gave Boeing a massive boost at a time when the aircraft manufacturer should be getting hammered.

SilkAir Boeing 737 Max 8

I’ve never much cared which aircraft manufacturer’s aircraft I fly in, and I generally have little time for people who deliberately choose Airbus over Boeing or Boeing over Airbus…but right now I really, really detest Boeing.

Everything I’ve heard and read about how the 737 MAX came into being and how the aircraft was certified as safe to fly by the FAA leaves me with a feeling that Boeing knowingly put people’s lives in danger in its chase for profits and market share, and I’ve yet to see any real signs of contrition from anyone at Boeing.

You could argue that Boeing can’t really show contrition because that would risk prejudicing all the lawsuits it’s currently facing but, not only has Boeing not shown contrition, it has also gone on the offensive and attempted to shift blame on to the pilots involved in the two disasters.

That, as at least one major Pilots’ union pointed out, is inexcusable.

The way in which the Boeing 737 MAX was conceived, developed and certified was, at best, deeply flawed, and the way the manufacturer has behaved since its aircraft killed 346 people has been appalling…and it deserves to be pilloried for all this.

Sadly, to understand why Boeing should be made to pay for its abhorrent behavior requires a moral compass that supersedes everything else and, fortunately for Boeing, Willie Walsh (IAG’s CEO) certainly doesn’t have one of those.

Most of the time Willie Wash comes over as a remarkably odious human being, but he’s also no fool. He can smell a great deal a mile away and he can also smell desperation.

Right now Boeing reeks of desperation and, like a shark sensing blood in the water, Willie Walsh came circling.

Walsh knows that the 737 MAX will, at some point, be certified to fly again (although I’m in no hurry to fly in the aircraft) and he also knows that few things in the aviation world are as toxic as the MAX currently is…so he undoubtedly saw the chance to make a deal.

With the 737 MAX grounded worldwide, with no one showing any love for Boeing and with Airbus signing up airlines to buy its new A321XLR aircraft in droves, Boeing desperately needed some positive news. It needed a ‘win’.

Walsh’s negotiating position couldn’t really have been any stronger (and Boeing’s couldn’t really have been any weaker) so when the two parties sat down to thrash out a deal Walsh had Boeing exactly where he wanted it.

I have no doubt that he played his hand to the full and there is absolutely no way that Wash didn’t walk away with a fantastic deal from Boeing.

Better still, IAG has only signed a letter of intent (which isn’t the same as an actual order) so Walsh has committed his company to very little and IAG may yet never actually take delivery of a single MAX aircraft.

Still, that doesn’t really matter. Aircraft deliveries were never what this was all about.

IAG’s letter of intent wasn’t about Boeing securing an order for the 737 MAX. It was about a major global airline player making a big show of support for the hateful aircraft and giving Boeing an incredible boost when it most needed it.

It’s a boost that Boeing was absolutely desperate to get and a boost that I wholeheartedly wish it had never received.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Wee Willie Walsh (WWW) is definitely an obnoxious human being, if reports from people who deal or have dealt with him are to be believed – and I have no reason not to believe them. He is also the poster child for lots of airlines’ appalling behaviour these days. He definitely got a good deal, if not for the MAX aircraft, then (indirectly) for the B777Xs on order. As you have said, Boeing needed some good news and WWW handed it to them on a platter, but with his terms and conditions attached.

    Good negotiation style or his normal everyday behaviour? No prizes for guessing. IAG wins anyway and their shareholders will love it.

    • Your point re. the 777X is one I’ve been thinking about too.

      It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that the real payback IAG is getting is on the 777X and that some sort of deal has been done where the LOI on the MAX is never followed up with an actual order (or at least not a 200 frame order) so Boeing doesn’t lose a fortune there but Boeing still gets its massive boost at the Paris Airshow and IAG gets a sweeter than normal deal on the 777X.

  2. Leaves a foul taste this deal. Note that in the press release from IAG they don’t use the word MAX at all. They know it’s toxic so it makes my skin crawl to see them helping Boeing out here.

    • I must admit that I haven’t had the time to read the IAG release but it doesn’t surprise me to hear that ‘MAX’ never gets mentioned – no airline wants its passengers to associate it with an aircraft that’s been involved in two disasters in short succession.

  3. “Everything I’ve heard and read about how the 737 MAX came into being and how the aircraft was certified as safe to fly by the FAA leaves me with a feeling that Boeing knowingly put people’s lives in danger in its chase for profits and market share, and I’ve yet to see any real signs of contrition from anyone at Boeing.”

    Right. Boeing knowingly put unsafe planes in the air because, “hey a couple of crashes couldn’t possibly hurt our business.” What company whose livelihood depends on its reputation for safety would take that risk? Get real.

    • The answer to your question is Boeing.

      Everything that is now coming out about how the MAX was conceived, why it was designed the way it was, the corners that were cut, what Boeing deliberately chose not to share with airlines and pilots and what Boeing chose to charge extra for, all point to a corporation chasing profits and market share with an increasing lack of regard for the quality of product being put into the market.

        • I believed I used the word ‘knowingly’. I don’t think Boeing ‘intended’ to create a terrible aircraft.

          If you’re questioning my suggestion that Boeing intentionally withheld information about MCAS from airlines and pilots then I stand by that – it’s fact and common knowledge.

  4. I look at this differently. The 737 MAX is going to be sold. Boeing is not going to discontinue it. As such, there will be buyers. Let someone buy it now or have a letter of intent.

  5. Much more eloquent than I would have been, and absolutely correct. I think that the CEO of Boeing should be brought up on trial for negligent homicide. As to IAG, my ethical expectations for them are exceedingly low, but they still managed to outdo themselves in a negative fashion.

  6. That statement is just patently false and you have no idea what you’re talking about. My colleagues, as well as others here in the US, who are type rated to operate this aircraft were properly trained and fully capable of flying this bird without incident. Could Boeing have made some better choices, sure, hindsight is 20/20, but these aircraft didn’t crash solely because of the MCAS or other design flaws, they crashed because they lacked the proper training and flight time to be in the left or right seats to begin with.

    I also love how you have time to write a hit piece like this but couldn’t take 3min to bother to even read the IAG press release…what a tool. Take your whining drivel elsewhere.

    • Which statement is ‘patently false’?

      It doesn’t require hindsight to know that having MCAS linked to just one sensor in the nose is a monumentally idiotic idea and it doesn’t take hindsight to know that fitting an aircraft control system that you then don’t tell the pilots or airlines about is an incredibly stupid idea too (that’s the system that was introduced to overcome issues as a result of Boeing needing to rush an aircraft into production btw.).

      Re. the IAG press release, I’d love to know why you think it’s so crucial that I read it…or is it just something for you to pick at because I dare to criticize Boeing?

      Lastly, as this is my blog and not yours I’d love to know where exactly should I be taking my ‘whining drivel’? Did you get editorial rights I didn’t hear about?

  7. Your comments are not factual. Boeing did not “cobble together” anything to do with this aircraft. They have options available to Carriers, should they choose to order a certain configuration. I believe the 3 US carriers ordered the dual sensor configuration. They operated the preponderance of these airframes, without a problem.
    Respondent Bob made comment about crew competency. You might wish to delve into that. I will have no comment on that aspect. I am sure that Insurers have some raised eyebrows.

    • “Cobbled together” was a comment relating to how the 737 MAX was conceived as an aircraft and has nothing to do with the monumentally stupid decision to allow MCAS to rely on one sensor.

      It has been mentioned in numerous (and authoritative) places that MCAS was required due to where Boeing positioned the engines on the aircraft.

      The engines on the 737 MAX are in the position they are to help Boeing to overcome an issue that raised its head because the manufacturer didn’t want to build a new aircraft from scratch (too expensive for Boeing and the airlines) and, instead, built a new plane around and old frame – that, in my book, is cobbling something together.

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