Japanese airlines have so far been loyal to Boeing, however, they will soon operate their first Aibus aircraft

Airbus's Japanese deal good news for UK industry

Airbus signing its first major contract with a Japanese airline is good news for Rolls-Royce who will provide its new Trent XWB engines for the 31 A350 aircraft.

The deal with Japan Airlines (JAL), worth some £6bn, is a major victory for Airbus, who has so far been unsuccessful in its attempts to conquer the Japanese market, traditionally dominated by the company’s American rival Boeing.

In addition to the 31 A350 planes scheduled for delivery in 2019, JAL has agreed options for a further 25 aircraft.

While dealing a possible blow to the Japanese aerospace industry that builds large portions of Boeing’s jets, the recent development means a large boost for the UK’s aerospace sector.

Apart from Rolls Royce, whose Trent XWB engines will now become the company’s largest selling product in its category, the deal will also help Airbus’s facilities in the UK, particularly those in North Wales, where the company employs some 1,000 people producing wings for the A350.

"This is a huge win for Airbus and a big loss for Boeing," said aerospace analyst Scott Hamilton, managing director of Seattle-based consultancy firm Leeham.

"Airbus has been trying to break the wide-body monopoly of Boeing for decades and likewise Boeing has wanted to keep Airbus out of JAL and ANA."

It has been suggested Boeing’s loss in the battle over the Japanese market could have been caused by the on-going Dreamliner struggle.

Boeing has for decades seen off attempts by the European plane-maker to secure an order with JAL, benefiting from links with Japanese suppliers and deep political ties between Tokyo and Washington to maintain a market share of more than 80 per cent.

Recently, Boeing’s reputation suffered from delays and subsequent battery problems of the Dreamliner. Making the situation even less favourable for Boeing was the fact that the state-owned JAL has gone public, resulting in the country’s government with American connections losing its power over the purchases.

Airbus also showed its readiness to move in on Boeing's turf in the Japanese aerospace industry, including cooperation in research and development.

"With this order, it gives us more momentum to look for potential joint R&D efforts for the future generation of aircraft," Fabrice Bregier, chief executive of Airbus, a subsidiary of EADS, told a joint news conference in Tokyo with JAL President Yoshiharu Ueki.

Ueki did not say what JAL would actually pay for the A350s, which vied with Boeing's yet-to-be-launched 777X, but industry analysts said it would be typical to secure generous discounts in such a ground-breaking deal.

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