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Airline Survey Ranks Boeing Highest In Aftermarket Customer Support

A survey by Inside MRO, ATW and AeroDynamic Advisory shows Boeing ranked highest in airlines’ satisfaction with OEMs’ aftermarket support.

Airlines’ ranking of OEM product support largely reflects what has happened with new aircraft and engine deliveries over the past year. For engine manufacturers that struggled to introduce new engines into the market smoothly and overcome early teething problems, airlines expressed dissatisfaction with parts availability, repair costs and OEM service center performance.

Given that airframe manufacturers should deliver about 2,000 aircraft each year in the near future and pursue more revenue from the aftermarket, the pressure is on for the OEMs to perform.

To benchmark customer satisfaction with OEMs’ aftermarket services, Inside MRO, Air Transport World and AeroDynamic Advisory conducted a joint survey of 311 qualified respondents from 138 airlines around the world—asking them to rate aircraft, engine, mechanical/electrical, avionics, interiors and inflight entertainment, and nacelle and thrust reverser OEMs. 

The Aviation Week Network publications and AeroDynamic Advisory released the first such survey in July 2018.

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Airline respondents scored manufacturers on 10 satisfaction metrics: ease of doing business, product reliability, technical support, parts costs, parts availability, aircraft-on-ground support, OEM repair costs, OEM service center performance, overall satisfaction and likelihood to recommend to a peer or colleague.

The Details

For the second year in a row, on a scale of 1 to 10, Boeing captured the highest rating (7.7), followed by Airbus (7.3) and GE Aviation’s avionics division (7.1).

For the four major airframers, Boeing scored the highest in seven out of eight measurement categories, but its overall score by dropped 0.1 of a point from last year. The survey was conducted before the Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX accident on March 10 and subsequent groundings based on concern with the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). “Boeing’s product reliability score of 8.1 was the only score above 8.0 for the whole survey,” of all of the OEMs and all of the categories, “so perhaps that is why people were so surprised about MCAS,” says Mike Stengel, an AeroDynamic Advisory senior associate.

Airbus was the only airframe OEM whose overall score increased this year compared to last. It climbed to 7.3 from 7.0, with its highest rating coming from technical support at 7.8, followed by product reliability at 7.6. While in last year’s survey, Boeing scored higher in product support in every region, this year Airbus was stronger in Europe, Jonas Murby, an AeroDynamic principal, points out. He says Airbus typically performs better with carriers that have limited in-house engineering capabilities, such as low-cost carriers.

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Bombardier’s overall score remained consistent at 6.9 despite major changes in the Canadian company’s air transport business, with the C Series (now A220) program being taken over by Airbus last year and the announcement that it is selling its Dash 8 and Q400 turboprop business to Longview Aviation Capital, a deal expected to conclude this year.

Embraer’s overall rating dropped 0.4 points, to 6.7; the Brazilian company is also undergoing a sea change as it enters a joint-venture merger with Boeing that could become final by the end of the year.

All of the airframe OEMs scored poorly in parts costs and not much better in OEM repair cost.

Engine OEMs fell out of the top part of the scale largely due to low marks on parts costs, parts availability and OEM repair costs. In particular, Pratt & Whitney, GE Aviation and CFM International took a hit in their overall product support scores compared to the 2018 survey, with the biggest drop for Pratt & Whitney, most likely due to its geared turbofan problems in 2018. It scored the lowest of the engine OEMs in ease of doing business, product reliability (a tie with Honeywell’s APU business), technical support and parts availability. IAE, maker of the V2500 engine, scored the highest of the engine OEMs and stood out in technical support and parts availability.

Rolls-Royce climbed from the lowest-ranked engine OEM to the No. 2 position, possibly because it has been more actively working with airlines in the past year and it does not have the volume of engines of the other manufacturers, since it is predominately focused on the widebody market.

Kevin Michaels, an AeroDynamic principal, says it is hard to find a maintenance slot in GE, Pratt & Whitney or CFM shops because they are all doing engine reconfigurations due to problems with their new engines, and parts scarcity is slowing turnaround times even when engines do enter shops. In addition, this surge in unexpected shop visits from the new engines is happening at the same time as shop visits spike from the existing fleet, which further compounds these problems.

While GE Aviation’s score dipped on product support for engines, it ranked the highest of the avionics OEMs—edging out Collins Aerospace by just 0.1 of a point. GE has a narrower avionics product line than the other avionics suppliers, which could make managing product support easier, and Honeywell has the broadest, notes Michaels. “GE isn’t one of the big three . . . but their performance is good,” he adds, noting Collins Aerospace usually sits at the top of product support cards and is frequently benchmarked.

Interiors suppliers improved year over year, with Collins Aerospace, Panasonic and Jamco taking the top three spots. Seat manufacturers have taken a lot of flack over the last few years for big backlogs and being unable to keep up with a flood of airline interiors upgrades, but that situation seems to be getting better. Michaels suspects Collins has put its quality imprint on B/E Aerospace, which it acquired in 2017 before merging with United Technologies.

While Honeywell’s landing gear and mechanical division scored the highest of the mechanical/electrical suppliers, it did not have the top score in any of the individual aftermarket categories. Collins Aerospace’s mechanical systems, just 0.1 of a point behind Honeywell, scored the highest in ease of doing business, product reliability and technical support. Murby points out that Collins usually scores high, and Honeywell is usually low, so this is a bit of a surprise.

Jonas says it is difficult for companies with broad component portfolios to provide consistent aftermarket support for all components across the globe. Honeywell, Collins and Liebherr are fairly consistent, but airlines in Asia ranked component OEMs on average lower than other regions, suggesting underserved support.

Net Promoter Score

The survey also tabulated net promoter scores (NPS), a metric based on asking customers how likely they are to recommend a company to others on a scale of 0 to 10. The NPS subtracts the percentage of detractors (those choosing 6 or lower) from the percentage of promoters (who chose 9 or 10) to obtain the score—which provides a clear indication of how satisfied or loyal a customer is with a company’s product or service.

The net promoter scores span from -100 to 100, with any number higher than zero essentially being positive—meaning that more people would recommend a company’s product or service than would speak negatively about it. A score of fifty is considered “good” while 60-70 is “world-class.”

This is where all of the OEMs, except for Boeing, are in trouble. Boeing scored 18%, down from 27% in 2018, and the rest scored -4% or less, with many in the -30s and -40s. This means that more customers would not recommend a company’s product or service than would do so. While their scores are still in negative territory—at -4 and -22, respectively, Airbus and Panasonic both improved their NPS scores over 2018, with Panasonic making the biggest improvement.

Given that companies with high NPS scores often perform better and have more loyal customers, this metric shows that airlines would like to see a lot of improvement in the quality of manufacturers’ aftermarket support.

Survey Methodology

The survey, conducted in early 2019, covered 41 major aerospace OEMs and suppliers of aircraft, engines, mechanical/electrical, avionics, interiors and inflight entertainment, and nacelles and thrust reversers. Results are based on responses from 311 qualified operator personnel—each of whom interacted with and was familiar with the OEMs surveyed. Of the 311 responses, 44% are from North America, 20% Asia-Pacific, 16% Europe, 9% South America, 6% the Middle East and 5% Africa. 

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