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  4. United Airlines CEO says he wants to see a competitor break the Airbus-Boeing duopoly, but isn't convinced by Chinese upstart Comac

United Airlines CEO says he wants to see a competitor break the Airbus-Boeing duopoly, but isn't convinced by Chinese upstart Comac

Pete Syme   

United Airlines CEO says he wants to see a competitor break the Airbus-Boeing duopoly, but isn't convinced by Chinese upstart Comac
  • United Airlines' CEO called for an end to the Airbus-Boeing duopoly.
  • Scott Kirby said he thinks Boeing made the 737 Max instead of a new model because there wasn't enough competition.

The CEO of United Airlines said he wants to see the end of the Airbus-Boeing duopoly, in an interview on "The Air Show" podcast.

"I think we need more competition in the aerospace business," Scott Kirby said.

He pointed to the Boeing 737 Max as an example of the duopoly's negative impact. Kirby said building on the 737 model — which was first produced in the 1960s — instead of creating a new one was a "fundamental mistake."

"The reason they haven't done it is because, I think — I'm almost certain — is they look at the world and say, 'Well, we have a duopoly. Why would we invest $10 billion in a new airplane in a duopoly?'" he said.

"If there'd have been five aircraft manufacturers, they'd have built an airplane 15 years ago," Kirby told "The Air Show."

"We wouldn't be sitting here today with some of the challenges they've had with the Max," he added. "It's a platform that's older than I am."

Kirby made headlines in January when he said United would take the Boeing 737 Max 10 out of its plans. That came in the wake of the Alaska Airlines blowout, when a Max 9 lost its door plug in midair and sparked huge scrutiny of Boeing.

Certification of the 737 Max 10 has been much delayed, and United's chief financial officer later said the airline would replace them with Max 9 and Airbus A321neo jets.

One potential new competitor to Boeing and Airbus has arisen in China, where Comac has built the country's first homegrown airliner, the C919.

Orders have so far been limited to China and Southeast Asia — although Reuters reported that Saudi officials held discussions with Comac as well.

Kirby, however, is unconvinced. He told "The Air Show" that Comac becoming a global player is "not inevitable, I think it's unlikely."

Instead, he's more bullish about Embraer, the Brazilian planemaker. Its E175 and E190 narrowbody jets are operated by the likes of SkyWest Airlines, the US' largest regional carrier, which is contracted by American, United, and Delta.

Last month, Embraer denied The Wall Street Journal's report that it was looking to build a new narrowbody jet to compete with Boeing and Airbus.

"Embraer certainly has the capability to develop a new narrowbody aircraft. However, we have a young and very successful portfolio of products developed in recent years, and we are really focused on selling those products and making Embraer bigger and stronger," a spokesperson said.


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