BOEING Company has decided to proceed with an expanded version of its hot-selling 787 Dreamliner jet, bowing to pressure from airlines, according to the executive who heads the 787 programme.
The composite-built 787, due to start commercial flights in 2008, helped spark a recovery in Boeing’s fortunes last year, as it overtook European archrival Airbus in orders for wide-body aircraft.
Mike Bair, general director of the 787 programme, says Boeing decided to go ahead with the expanded version, which would begin flying in late 2012, because Emirates airlines, long an advocate of the larger version, was joined by others.
Boeing is talking to ‘around a dozen’ airlines about the plane, which would have the same 8,600 to 8,800 mile range of a previously planned 250-seat version, he says.
Dubai-based Emirates, which placed a $9.7 billion order for Boeing’s 777 jet late last year, has said it is weighing an order of some 50 mid-sized wide-body planes from either Boeing or European archrival Airbus, a joint venture of France’s EADS and Britain’s BAE Systems.
The airline’s president told Reuters that Airbus was closer to meeting its requirements because it had already launched a larger-size version of its A350, a plane being developed to compete with the 787.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Qatar Airways, has backed off from an earlier commitment to buy 20 Boeing 777s and is now considering the Airbus A340 instead.
Alan Mulally, chief executive of Boeing’s commercial airplanes division, said Qatar Airways, previously an all-Airbus airline, had clearly preferred the 777.