Airbus had a few edits on Boeing's ad. Click for larger.

Airbus had a few edits on Boeing's ad. Very creative. Click for larger.

For quite sometime the tension between Boeing and Airbus over the tanker deal and subsidies has created tension. More recently, it seems maybe they are going too far on Twitter, advertisements and comments made.

With Boeing (@Boeing & @BoeingAirplanes) and Airbus (@AirbusInTheUS) recently getting on Twitter, it has become interesting seeing some of the volleys that go back and forth between the companies. Things have been pretty friendly, until news on subsidies surfaced.

I really don’t feel like hashing out all the subsidy stuff, but the bottom line is Boeing accused Airbus of taking illegal subsidies. The World Trade Organization (WTO) found that Airbus took $20billion in illegal subsidies. Boeing has come out pretty saying, “we told you so” (that’s a paraphrase). Then it became Airbus’ turn and now they are stating that the WTO has found Boeing also took illegal subsidies. There is a lot more going on, so if you aren’t up to date, check out Flight Global’s WTO page.

Airbus released the findings on January 31st and during the day they produced nine Tweets talking about the WTO findings and in many, talking directly to Boeing. For example (help with Twitter lingo):

@AirbusInTheUS: “Confused by #Boeing claims that WTO found Airbus got $20B in illegal subsidies? Us too. Here’s the report. No such #’s.”

Okay, I can see one, but nine Tweets? It seemed to be a little much for me. I see Twitter as a way for companies to relate to their customers, not a place to complain directly about a competitor. Sure, if you are Tweeting for yourself, not a company, complain away, but representing a company is something different. You don’t see United Airlines calling out Delta Air Lines on Twitter — it is kept professional as it should.

Boeing also talked about the WTO reports, but were not directly talking to Airbus. Boeing’s approach seems very different to me. Here is an example of Boeing’s tweet on January 31st:

@Boeing: “#Boeing statement on #WTO decision reports #Airbus,” and “Video: #Boeing trade expert discusses #WTO”

I understand that Airbus might have some built up frustration. Not only did Boeing accuse them of getting subsidies and they find Boeing did too, but there is a lot of emotion around the US military tanker deal. The tanker deal has been plagued with delays, decision changes and some pretty messed up situations.

Boeing placed an ad in DC-area newspapers about the subsidies and tweeted it on February 3rd. That Tweet, caused Airbus to respond with two Tweets arguing that the ad was misleading (Tweet1 and 2). But Airbus didn’t stop there. They took Boeing’s ad and made some edits and placed their revised ad in a newsletter targeting the folks on Capital Hill in Washington, DC (see photo with this blog). It seems like Airbus’ edits bring up some interesting points and questions.

In a way, Boeing has an advantage since they have three separate Twitter accounts (their third is on defense). I think this separation was wise. The @BoeingAirplanes has been the more light and “fun” account, connecting with Boeing fans and direct customers. The other two are able to take the brunt of the controversy and have more of a serious tone. Since Airbus only has one feed, it can be difficult to read a serious tweet one second, then the next learning how many ping pong balls can fit into an A380 (by the way, it is 35million). Boeing has also been in the defense business much longer than EADS (the parent company of Airbus). Boeing has been able to learn the ins and outs of defense communications and even has had a lead with social media.

Although Twitter for the two has seemed to calm down, both airline manufactures are still participating in public conflict . EADS North America Chairman Ralph Crosby Jr. recently stated he feels that Boeing cares more about winning the tanker than American troops getting the best product. ’œOur campaign has been based on enabling the understanding of the superior capabilities and value of our system under the rules that are established. And what I see in terms of advertisement and sort of third-party and paid surrogate statements is that, well, whatever (Boeing executives) do, they may or may not win, but they sure want to keep us from winning and, frankly, from my perspective, if that’s anybody’s approach then I think it’s irresponsible to the warfighters.’

Boeing tanker spokesman Bill Barksdale responded by saying, ’œRather than take shots at our European competitor, the Boeing Company continues to focus on being ready to build tankers if we’re honored with a selection and contract award. The selfless men and women of America’s Air Force deserve no less.’

I know there are a lot of complexities and politics involved with this deal, but it seems to me that both companies are spending too much time concerned about insulting the other. That time, effort and money might be used more wisely to work on their own airplane programs.

I think both companies are still in the learning phases of social media. I just hope that whichever company loses the final contract for the tanker can graciously admit defeat and wish the winner the best of luck. I know in the “real” world, that might be too much to ask, but I think in social media, anything is possible.

Image: Seattle PI

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me:
Photo of First Boeing 747-400 in new United Airlines Livery
Pago Flyer

Why in the world would the U$ Government NOT choose a USA company!!! Doesn’t make any sense. Come on people….

The better question is why in the world would the USAF not choose the superior product at the better price? I don’t know the ins and outs, so I don’t know whose plane is better suited fro the USAFs needs, but in the end it shouldn’t come down to company location, it should come down to product. And by the way, the EADS tanker would create tens of thousands of jobs in the US.

I think Airbus was a little overzealous in their tweets about the WTO report, but I don’t really care much about that. I think it is completely true that Boeing is going for the win instead of the troops. Leave subsidies out of the competition, what’s done is done, and Boeing also received subsides for the 767, so they aren’t as clean as they say they are.

The selection process is not concerned as from where the product is sourced, its about capability and meeting the USAF criteria, if that means an overseas produced design, then sobeit.

Nah, I gotta agree with Pago here: Why in the name of all that’s right would American taxpayers borrow money from China to buy military aircraft from France when there is a fully capable American-made alternative? Especially when the European aircraft is more expensive to maintain and operate?

And how can you leave the subsidies out of it? The only way EADS can undercut Boeing on price is because EADS has received more than $5 billion in illegal direct subsidies to develop its airplane. (The WTO, btw, found Boeing received exactly ZERO dollars from the U.S. government help in develop its KC-767 tanker.)

There’s nothing in any of our free-trade agreements that requires the U.S. taxpayer to fund a jobs-creation program in France. If we can’t afford to pay public school teachers, highway workers, nurses and cops decent wages, then we certainly can’t afford the EADS tanker.

The WTO found NASA R&D help to be illegal, they helped design the 767 cockpit, therefore they received illegal help. Also, the subsidies are in the past, what’s done is done, and it is time to move on from that. Whatever the USAF determines to be the superior aircraft is the one they should get. And considering Airbus will create and support tens of thousands of jobs and invest billions in the US should they win the contract a lot of the money will stay here.
And after just saying we Airbus is going to offer a cheaper plane that Boeing, you say we can’t afford to Airbus plane, so clearly we can’t afford the Boeing plane.

Let’s get that straight, when it comes to subsidies in one form, or another, the kettle is calling the pot black.
As to buying a foreign military product, if everybody would think like Americans, nobody would have bought any military hardware from Uncle Sam. Alas, US politicians will make sure that Boeing gets the tanker contract one way or another. One can only hope the Europeans keep that in mind when American products are offered to them. But hey, the can hardly sell anything around the globe because they insist on producing their stuff in medieval inches that nobody in the metric world wants.

Maybe is Patty Murray had her way, but with Republicans in control of the House, and not enough Democrats on the “Screw The USAF” train, if the USAF wants Airbus, they USAF will get Airbus.

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