CFM Big Winner In OEM Customer Support Survey

Source: 2020 Air Transport Aftermarket Customer Satisfaction Survey

CFM International has become the highest-rated customer service MRO company, beating out Boeing, which held that position for the last two years, based on the third annual Air Transport Aftermarket Customer Satisfaction Survey, done cooperatively by Inside MRO, Air Transport World and AeroDynamic Advisory.

All of the engine OEMs, in fact, improved their overall scores this year except for Rolls-Royce, which slipped to the lowest-scoring engine OEM in the survey. Rolls-Royce has been plagued by Trent 1000 intermediate-pressure turbine and intermediate compressor problems that have grounded a portion of the Boeing 787 fleet.

The 787 and 737 MAX groundings probably also contributed to Airbus overtaking Boeing as the best in the airframe category. Airbus was the only airframe OEM whose overall customer satisfaction score improved year over year.

BAE Systems was the top avionics supplier, and Parker Aerospace generated the highest score among the mechanical/electrical suppliers.

Of the OEMs ranked, only seven logged strong satisfaction scores. On a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the highest, those OEMs are CFM (7.5), Airbus (7.3), Boeing (7.2), GE Aviation (engines, 7.1), Pratt & Whitney (APUs, 7.1) and Parker Aerospace (7.0).

The Details

The survey was conducted from mid-February to mid-May, with 185 qualified responses, including 62 unique airlines from around the world. The number of responses was lower than in previous years, which could be expected because the COVID-19 pandemic was unfurling during that period, and airlines were in sheer survival mode.Only 21 suppliers received enough responses to be statistically valid.

OEMs were ranked in the following categories: ease of doing business, product reliability, technical support, parts cost, parts availability, aircraft-on-ground (AOG) support, OEM repair cost, OEM service center performance, overall satisfaction and likelihood of recommending them to a peer or colleague.

There are regional differences but, in general, European airlines are less critical and North American are far more critical of their supply base, says Jonas Murby, an AeroDynamic Advisory principal.

Source: 2020 Air Customer Satisfaction Survey


CFM made several gains this year, including in ease of doing business, product reliability, technical support and AOG support. Of the nine customer service categories, it had the highest score in five. “They are also comparatively strong in all geographic regions,” says Murby.

CFM Leap engines experienced early problems, which most likely accounts for its overall score of 6.9 in 2019, versus 7.5 in 2020. However, as CFM has incorporated product improvements, “Leap 1A reliability has improved significantly over the last 12 months in key areas such as engine removals,” says a company representative.

To prepare for the Boeing 737 MAX’s recertification, CFM says it has been proactively working with customers during the grounding and has “developed an extensive de-preservation checklist” to smooth the process for service reentry.

CFM also has expanded its Leap MRO network, which includes 250 technical service representatives on-site with airlines in at least 50 countries. “The three CFM call centers (China, France and the U.S.) handle more than 2,200 inquiries each month and are required to respond within four hours. This team has maintained better than a 95% response rate to customer commitment,” says a company representative.

Airbus has also expanded its service network in the last year by “reinforcing our Africa-Middle East region and our Dubai-based customer service teams,” says Valerie Manning, Airbus senior vice president for customer support. Airbus has more than 1,000 aircraft based in the region.

Airbus had the highest score of airframe OEMs in product reliability and OEM service center performance.

Parker Hannifin has also been putting a premium on customer service in the last several years, which seems to resonate with its customer base. It has expanded its in-region support—including inventory pooling centers in the Middle East, Europe and Asia as well as repair capabilities. It also opened 24/7 customer response centers in Irvine, California, and in Singapore.

Parker Hannifin CEO Tom Williams also established a Net Promoter Score index called Likelihood to Recommend (LTR), which customers are asked about after every significant business transaction, says Austin Major, Parker Aerospace group vice president for business development and customer support. “Customers who have good experiences hold a greater appreciation for the overall value offered by Parker and actively promote our brand. They are more likely to have a strong interest in new product offerings and product improvements, and to consider broadening their business with Parker,” he adds.

Parker’s leaders and business units are measured on the LTR scores, which Major says have “steadily increased every year since the program’s inception.”

BAE Systems, which captured the top avionics supplier ranking, had the highest rating of avionics suppliers in five of the categories: product reliability, technical support, parts cost, parts availability and AOG support. It also tied with Thales for the top spot in OEM service center performance and tied with GE Aviation for OEM repair costs.

Source: 2020 Air Customer Satisfaction Survey


Most companies that were going through mergers in the past year have dropped in overall customer satisfaction, raising the issue of whether the merger process distracted from customer service. Many companies in the merger process took a hit in ease of doing business, which seems to be a strong indicator that if things are going well, some factors can be forgiven, but if it’s simply difficult to do business, other factors, such as parts prices, see more scrutiny as well.

Collins Aerospace’s avionics, which has consistently been known for highly ranked customer service, fell from 7.1 in 2019 to 6.4 in this survey—dropping most in terms of parts costs, parts availability and OEM service center performance.

“UTC was hoping to take Collins’ best-in-class customer service and spread it throughout the company, but the opposite happened,” says Kevin Michaels, AeroDynamic Advisory managing director. Historically Collins (and predecessor Rockwell Collins) had its leadership and aftermarket headquartered in one place—Cedar Rapids, Iowa. But now leadership and functionality are dispersed, which Michaels thinks could have negatively affected its customer service.

Collins’ Mechanical Systems unit, which covers everything from cargo systems to actuation, includes disparate systems that were lumped together, “so it’s not surprising that they’re at the bottom,” says Michaels. Collins Aerospace’s Mechanical Systems group scored an overall 5.8 this year, as opposed to 6.8 last year.

Interestingly, Pratt & Whitney, also part of the UTC merger and now part of the bigger Raytheon, showed an improvement—an overall score of 6.8 this year as opposed to 6.3 last year. Pratt has been working through the low-pressure turbine (LPT) blade and seal problems—and is now in the process of upgrading the LPT in PW11100G-JM models as part of an FAA and European Union Aviation Safety Agency mandate. Interestingly, of the engine OEMs, Pratt & Whitney scored the highest in AOG support, which could be based on its handling of these problems.

The OEM says that more than half of the GTF-powered fleet is now active, but when several fleets were grounded due to the pandemic, “we aggressively accelerated our MRO capability for the GTF family to incorporate available upgrades in anticipation of the recovery.” For some upgrades, “we established ‘quick turn’ facilities to further accelerate modifications,” says a company representative.

Pratt’s APU business also made a modest climb in the ratings, from 6.7 last year to 7.1 this year.

However, Boeing and Embraer, which had planned to establish a commercial aircraft joint venture but called it off in late April, both took a hit. Boeing’s scores in every product support category fell from last year, and all of Embraer’s scores did except for one: Parts costs increased to 6.3 this year compared to 6.2 last year. Whether the joint venture abandonment caused the decline in customer service scores is unclear, because Boeing has also been dealing with the grounded MAX fleet as well as other program delays and leadership changes.

Looking at other scores that fell, Honeywell Aerospace’s landing gear division took a dive—dropping 1.1 points to an overall score of 5.9—but its APU business received higher marks, which could partly be attributed to its Forge analytics platform. “Airlines have been willing to pay for it because it works,” says Michaels.

Net Promoter Scores

Net Promoter Scores (NPS), which gauge how likely customers are to recommend a product, are tabulated by subtracting the negative responses from the positives ones to derive a net score.

For the last two years, Boeing had been the only aerospace OEM in the survey that logged a positive NPS. Regardless, Boeing’s difficult year plunged it into negative territory.

However, CFM’s product support efforts lifted its score, making it the only NPS-positive company in this year’s survey.

Aviation OEMs lag NPS levels in other industries, and this year was not an exception.

Lee Ann Shay

As executive editor of MRO and business aviation, Lee Ann Shay directs Aviation Week's coverage of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), including Inside MRO, and business aviation, including BCA.