LOS ANGELES—Although Boeing concedes the Airbus A321neo has so far outsold the 737-9, the largest member of the forthcoming 737 MAX family, the manufacturer says the 737-8 is better positioned than its Airbus counterpart to capture the bulk of the 165-seat sector believed by Boeing to be the heart of the single-aisle market. 

The comments follow Airbus’s formal launch of its longer-range A321neo on Jan. 13 and reinforce Boeing’s view that the current-replacement market for the 757 may not be as large as Airbus forecasts. Disputing predictions by Airbus Chief Operating Officer-Customers John Leahy of a potential market for around 469 Boeing 757 replacements plus 500 additional aircraft, Boeing Marketing Vice President Randy Tinseth says “the thought of a 1,000 aircraft size market is frankly a little bit laughable.”

Although Boeing delivered more than 1,000 757-200s and -300s, the company says of the surviving fleet only “50 to 60” are currently flying the sort of long-range sectors at which the A321neo LR is aimed. By the same token, Boeing insists that Airbus is still playing catch-up when it comes to matching the range of the 737-900ER. However, like the newest version of the NEO, Boeing also concedes that if longer-range variants of the MAX were developed, they would require auxiliary fuel tanks like those used in the current BBJ business-jet versions of the 737.

Airbus, which launched the NEO in 2010 around eight months ahead of the MAX, has so far taken 3,621 firm orders against 2,663 for the re-engined 737. Of these, some 755 are A321neos, or 21% of the tally. By contrast, Boeing—which does not break down the MAX sales by model—is thought to have taken orders for around 217 of the 737-9 version of the MAX, or roughly 8% of the total orderbook.

The bulk of Boeing’s MAX orderbook comprises the 737-8, which accounts for almost 2,390 aircraft, or 90% of the total. “We think we have a very competitive product line in terms of the mid-market where the majority of the orders are in the -8 category,” says Boeing Global Sales and Marketing Senior Vice President John Wojick. The 165-seater sector represents “70% of the demand,” says Tinseth who adds, “we are well positioned with the MAX 8.” In terms of addressing the gradual growth to higher capacity Tinseth points out that 30% of the current 737-800 deliveries are configured for 189-passengers. “With the MAX-200 (a high density variant of the 737-8) this opens it up to 200 passengers. There’s a big market there,” he adds.