Japan Airlines, which for half a century has bought nothing but Boeing aircraft, went with rival Airbus Monday, agreeing to purchase a fleet of 31 A350s to replace its workhorse Boeing 777s.
It's a blow for Chicago-based Boeing, which was beset earlier this year with problems on its flagship Dreamliner 787 aircraft. The entire fleet was grounded for weeks earlier this year after a fire aboard one of the aircraft, operated by JAL, and then another, operated by rival All Nippon Airways.
The problem was traced to overheating lithium-ion batteries, and fixed. But other glitches have plagued the aircraft, which uses new technology and lightweight composite materials more extensively than any other plane.
JAL president Yoshiharu Ueki said the switch was unrelated to the Dreamliner troubles.
Airbus, which is based in France, and Boeing, which manufactures aircraft in Everett, Wash., and North Charleston, S.C., are fierce competitors in the global aviation market.
A $35 billion contract for Air Force refueling tankers originally awarded to Airbus was rebid after an uproar from the states and lawmakers who supported Boeing. Boeing prevailed, and began assembly on the new fleet at Everett in June.