I get it. All is fair in love and war and it is war between Airbus and Boeing. But I’m not impressed by actions of the French President just days after the horrific Boeing 737 MAX 8 crash that killed 159 people in Ethiopia.
French President Emmanuel Macron has meanwhile held discussions with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed about a new contract for Toulouse-based Airbus SE as part of a renewal of the Ethiopian Airlines fleet, a French official said Thursday.
Though the African carrier already operates the European planemaker’s A350 wide-body, all of its other jets are Boeings, including 787 Dreamliners for which it was one of the first global customers, and a variety of 737s.
Put another way, Macron is putting the sales pressure on Ethiopia less than a week after the fatal crash. The implication is clear…you can’t trust Boeing. Trust us instead, just like you did with your black box.
And it’s not just Ethiopia.
Macron will also discuss a major Airbus order during his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping’s state visit to France later this month, the official said. China has 20 percent of all delivered Max jets and was the first major authority to ground the model after Sunday’s tragedy.
Of course, Macron is going to try to sell China aircraft. He’d be derelict not to, especially with China also looking to use the pair of 737 MAX tragedies to ramp up Comac C919 sales. And yet it just feels tacky. Can’t you imagine Macron and Xi sitting down for afternoon tea?
You know you really should cancel some of those Boeing orders. Why would you want to risk the lives of your citizens? And we’re not going to threaten you with tariffs either.
And note who is having these talks. Macron, the French President, did not call Ethiopian Airlines. Instead, he called (and visited) Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Ethiopian is state-owned and has become a profit engine for the Republic. Macron will sit down with Xi Jinping, not representatives of the many Chinese airlines looking to expand their fleet.
This underscores how inextricably linked aircraft manufacturers are to government and politics.
Now let’s be real. Boeing would have done precisely the same thing had it been an Airbus jetliner that crashed. Thus, I am not making a moral equivalency argument. But the whole “never let a good tragedy go to waste” mantra is tacky…I just cannot think of a better word. Funerals and memorial services are ongoing for the victims of this crash. Body parts are still being tenderly pulled out of the wreckage. But Marcron is busy trying to get Ethiopian to switch from Boeing to Airbus before we even know why the 737 MAX crashed.
Much ado about nothing, shameful actions by the French president, or simply the way business is done?
image: A. Doumenjou / Airbus