Seattle // Boeing has engaged Emirates Airline in plans to design it’s next generation 777 aircraft amid expectations the carrier will be next in line to buy the wide body jet.
It follows Lufthansa on Thursday becoming the first airline to make an order for the long-haul aircraft, announcing it would buy 34 777-9X.
Marty Bentrott, vice president of sales for Boeing in the Middle East, Russia and Central Asia, refused to say whether Emirates would be next up. But he said he was hopeful Middle East carriers would be among the first customers.
“I have every confidence they [Middle East carriers] will be part of the launch of this aircraft,” he said.
Emirates operates 175 777s and Tim Clark, Emirates president, has said the airline plans to begin retiring the fleet by 2017. He was quoted as telling reporters in May the airline was planning a major order for the 777X.
“We have been actively engaged with Emirates in the next generation 777,”said Mr Bentrott. “As the largest 777 customer in the world they deserve our focus and our attention. This aircraft needs to be effective for Emirates and its business plan because they have the 777 replacement cycle starting towards the end of this decade and they expect us to be able to provide an aircraft much more efficient than today’s 777.”
Despite not being formally launched, Boeing has already begun marketing the 777X as it seeks to defend its lead over Airbus in sales of wide-aisle aircraft. Burning 20 per cent less fuel and offering a 15 per cent operating improvement than the existing 777-300ER, the 777X is competing with Airbus’s A350.
Lufthansa’s order, its largest ever, also includes 25 A350-900s. The airline is seeking to cut fuel consumption while catching up with Middle East carriers on long-haul lEurope to Asia routes.
Boeing is gearing up for a busy Dubai Air Show, which runs from November 17 to 21. During the last event two years ago, Emirates dominated the show by making a US$18 billion order of 50 777s.
Mr Bentrott refused to be drawn onpotential orders likely to emerge during this year’s event.
“We are not exactly who are doing what yet,” he said. “But what I can say is there are wonderful opportunities with Emirates, Etihad and Qatar.”
The 777 has been one of Boeing’s most successful aircraft, with 271 currently on order by Middle East carriers, more than any other model.
Featuring an improved interior inspired by the 787 and a composite wing, Boeing says the 777X will also offer the widest cabin in its class, giving 11 per cent more space than the A350.
The region’s carriers also have a further 126 787s on order, 181 737s and 71 747s.
Boeing has forecast that the Middle East will require 2,610 new airplanes worth an estimated US$550bn between 2013 and 2032
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