Airbus Says White House Pressured Lion Air to Buy Boeing Planes
By Susanna Ray and Andrea Rothman
President Barack Obama’s administration pressured Indonesian carrier PT Lion Mentari Airlines, into agreeing to a record Boeing Co. (BA) jet order over Airbus SAS (EAD) planes, an executive for the European planemaker said.
Lion Air President Director Rusdi Kirana “told me he had no choice,” Airbus Chief Operating Officer John Leahy said yesterday. “There did seem to be an awful lot of political interference, and I think the White House is very proud of that.
“It doesn’t speak well for open, free trade,” Leahy told reporters on a conference call. He said Kirana twice visited Toulouse, France-based Airbus to discuss purchasing A320neo narrow-body planes.
Lion Air’s Nov. 18 accord to buy 230 Boeing jets with a list value of $21.7 billion was hailed by Obama as a milestone for his trade agenda. He attended a signing ceremony in Bali, Indonesia, that coincided with a summit of Southeast Asian leaders and praised Boeing for “an outstanding product.”
The White House directed questions to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Wilson Chow, a Boeing spokesman, declined to comment on Leahy’s remarks.
“There was no pressure,” Edward Sirait, a spokesman for budget carrier Lion Air, said by phone in Jakarta today. “We did the purchase in a normal way, after a lot of analysis. There was no influence from any parties.”
Under the agreement with Boeing, Lion Air would take 201 of the Chicago-based planemaker’s new 737 MAX model, which features upgraded engines, and 29 extended-range 737-900s. Chow said the 737 MAX “is the better airplane: It will deliver a 7 percent operating cost advantage over tomorrow’s competition.”
Airbus began marketing the A320neo, a version of its single-aisle jet with new engines, in December 2010, winning more than 1,450 commitments so far, including about 1,250 firm orders. Deliveries are due to begin in 2015.
Boeing’s board approved development of the MAX in August, with the planes to start reaching airlines in 2017. The company has said it has more than 700 commitments for the 737 MAX, with firm orders not possible yet because performance guarantees and pricing haven’t been set.
Airbus and Boeing rank first and second in global airliner sales.
is it just white house in DC or in JAkarta also