Boeing executives Tuesday expressed skepticism at demand for a midsized Airbus plane launched earlier in the day to travel longer distances.
Boeing executives acknowledged that there is some potential for growth in the market for single-aisle planes that can travel longer distances. But they said some estimates of the market for the new Airbus A321neo launched Tuesday in France were unrealistic.
"The thought of a 1,000-plane market of an airplane that size is frankly a little bit laughable," said Randy Tinseth, vice president for marketing in Boeing's commercial airplane division.
The remarks came on a conference call to review Boeing's 2014 performance, when it booked a record 1,432 net orders and 723 deliveries.
Airbus outpaced Boeing in orders with 1,456, but fell short of its US rival on deliveries with 629. Airbus' chief executive proclaimed 2014 "an excellent year" in releasing the company's final annual figures.
Airbus also announced a longer-range version of its A320 aircraft that it says will be able to make transatlantic flights after having received a preliminary order of 30 planes from Air Lease Corporation (ALC).
The A321neo that is scheduled to enter service in 2019 will have a maximum range of 4,000 nautical miles, slightly more than the single aisle Boeing 757 that is no longer in production.
Boeing's Tinseth said the "heart" of the market for mid-size planes is for models of the size of its 737 Max 8 plane, which has maximum range of about 3,660 nautical miles.
He said demand for larger planes accounts for only 20 to 30 percent of the market. He described the Airbus plane as a catch-up to Boeing's 737 Max 9 plane.
John Wojick, a senior vice president of global sales and marketing, said Boeing believes there could be a market for larger planes. But the US aerospace giant isn't sure how big it is.
"We're studying that very closely, trying to understand how large is that market space and would an investment in that market space be justified," Wojick said.
Boeing has visited about 30 customers worldwide to discern demand for a larger plane, he said.
Like their counterparts from Airbus, Boeing executives downplayed the impact of lower fuel prices on plane orders.
Tinseth said the drop in prices has not affected customer orders. He said the drop in fuel prices provides a "tailwind" to customer profits, allowing the brisk pace of orders to continue.