Volvo Olympian
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Joined: Thu Mar 28, 2002 8:08 am

The Politics Of Ordering

Fri Mar 29, 2002 1:32 am

Having read numerous posts inducing somewhat bitter disputes as to the choice of aircraft ordered (or lack of) by various airlines, one thought to remind others of the significant role of politics and perception in such matters.

Although the economic notion of maximising profitability and efficiency appears to prevail as sacrosanct in the choice of aircraft, political motives often override or are 'made to complement' any given set of circumstances.

With the British Airways example, despite my immense love of both the Next-Generation 737 and A320 family of aircraft, it is seemingly the case that BA would not have opted for Airbus narrow body jets without political pressure for the need to show 'European support'. After all, how could the acclaimed 'flag carrier' of a prominent European Union member be seen without Europe's prime export product in its fleet (as purchased)?

The fact that hefty discounts (arguably at very little profit if any at all) were offered reinforces the symbolic nature of the order. Moreover, the decision to remain loyal to Boeing for long-haul keeps America happy and thus Britain apparently 'forms the bridge across the Atlantic'. Whether this is perceived to be the case by either the Americans or other Europeans (especially the French and Germans) is rather more obscure.

Numerous illogical fleet compositions or temperamental supplier decisions can also be attributed to the affect of politics. Korea’s initial favouring of the 777 and the subsequent purchase of A330’s; China’s constant sway between the big two according to the latest statesperson visiting to put their lobbying powers to work and the rather predictable imports of both Airbus and Boeing in the Middle East showing gratitude for oil as well as international support, may highlight political involvement.

To conclude, one is not making any sweeping statements to the effect that all aircraft purchasing decisions are political or that any combined fleet has resulted from such exogenous factors. One is simply pointing out that the answer to many such queries seeking justification for choice of aircraft fleet, are hindered by the lack of information and apparent over bias of contributory parties to either Airbus or Boeing. While passions regarding the latter are perfectly understandable, they lack logic as a basis for reasoning and help neglect factors such as politics during such discussions.

RE: The Politics Of Ordering

Fri Mar 29, 2002 1:48 am

Politics can be a serious matter with government-owned airlines. For example, Air Canada, then government-owned, was under serious pressure by the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau to buy Airbus A300s and/or A310s in the late '70s. The reason was that Airbus was doing plenty of lobbying, and Trudeau himself wanted to improve Canadian-French relations.

AC might have become an A300/A310 operator had Trudeau not been replaced in 1979-80 by a short-lived Conservative minority government. The incoming government was indifferent to what AC bought, and by the time Trudeau returned to power in March 1980, the airline had ordered 767s.

There were more allegations of lobbying ten years later, when Air Canada was looking to replace its 727s. The airline has always said the A320 family was more suitable to AC's network than the 737 or MD-80/MD-90 families, but there were still allegations, never thoroughly proven, of a dirty deal between Airbus, prime minister Brian Mulroney, insider/lobbyist Frank Moores, Karlheinz Schreiber (sp?) and assorted others.
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RE: The Politics Of Ordering

Fri Mar 29, 2002 2:13 am

Most countries of the world besides the US have one national flag carrier. Even Britain, which has a decent number of airlines, still has to consider BA its flag carrier.

This situation means that there is usually more attention paid to the airline's buying habits by the public and government than in the US.

So, yes, obviously there is political, or even public, (are they the same?) pressure to order A v. B depending on the situation at the time - in most non US nations. Obviously Saudi Arabian considered the political benefits of ordering the last produced MD-80s(90s?). The same is true of El Al - and all Israeli industry - it (rightly) considers it has a political debt to the US and orders accordingly.

ALSO, I don't think there is anything wrong with this. Its perfectly acceptable to expect a nations flag carrier to buy a product with political considerations taken into account. There is nothing wrong with it.

However, my main point, is that political considerations pay virtually no role in the aircraft orders placed by US airlines. They do in other nations. This is neither bad nor good, just an observation.

kind regards,

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Joined: Thu Nov 08, 2001 1:48 am

RE: The Politics Of Ordering

Fri Mar 29, 2002 3:10 am

Simple question for many.

Airbus is chosen because they are given away for free, especially to EU countrys and Boeing is chosen because they are so damned good.

Serious now,

I would think that airlines in all honesty buy what they need and that political influence hardly exist. The exception being ELAL, who prefered Airbus.

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