If Boeing believes what their CFO James Bell told the audience, Airbus just closes today's gap between the A320 and the B737-800 with the introduction of the NEO. So why then doing something at all? If both big players are on-par, they could go on and share 50% of the market each - at least above the 150 seat level, where Bombardier reportedly will not offer a CS500 (and the announcement of collaboration with COMAC sheds some light on this) and Irkut and COMAC will have a long way to be a player in the the market.
So where is the incentive for Boeing to spend some $10 billion on a new aircraft with all the technical risk involved, but still staying with a conventional tube-and-wing design and the risk that Airbus will follow a few years later leapfrogging the 797 with an unconventional, radical new design.
The low-risk and low-cost solution would be what Airbus says Boeing will do: follow with a re-engined B737 and let the engine maker(s) pay for most of the cost, as now does Airbus (Udvar-Hazy made some comments about this at the ISTAT).
There are just two things that could lead Boeing to design a new aircraft:
- Their statement that the re-engining only closes the gap is not true and in reality the NEO's are far better in costs then the NG's. The steadily rising oil price is in favor of the NEO cash operating costs right now and there is probably nobody out there who will predict oil at below $80/barrel in the future. But a re-engining could close that gap - maybe not entirely, but close enough, so that by "adjusting" the purchase price (see A340-600) for the aircraft should be good enough to sell the aircraft.
- The basic design of the 737, namely the narrow cabin is too old to be attractive for airlines in the future. This is somehow contrasted by the good response to the Sky interior just introduced for the B737NG.
There is more about that here: