PARIS // Emirates Airline, the carrier that will be the biggest user of the 777 airliner, has lukewarm interest in Boeing's proposal to put a larger wing on the widebody jet and prefers the aircraft maker to design a new plane. The aircraft's wing is "already very good", Tim Clark, the airline's chief executive, said yesterday in a briefing at the Paris Air Show. "I'd be thinking seriously about an all-new aircraft."
Boeing said on Monday it might build a new wing for the 777, first flown by United Airlines in 1995, to improve fuel efficiency and compete more effectively with the Airbus SAS A350, which enters service in 2013. Emirates Airline, based in Dubai and the Arab world's biggest airline, has ordered 70 A350s and has signed a letter of intent for another 30. A revamped or all-new 777 would fill a gap in Boeing's line-up, just above the 787 Dreamliner. The 787, due for delivery next year, will carry a maximum of 290 passengers. The Airbus A350 will have 350 seats and the current 777 can carry about 370 people.
Boeing is considering several alternatives, including the wing upgrade, a new plane and a larger version of its 787. The manufacturer is in talks with airline customers to gauge their preferences, Scott Carson, the Boeing commercial planes chief, said yesterday. Emirates Airline has about 75 Boeing 777s in operation already, Boeing said in May, and this year will become the aircraft's largest operator, surpassing Singapore Airlines.
The carrier uses the 777-300ER to fly 354 passengers in three classes "with flat beds, suites and all the gizmos", Mr Clark said. That cannot be done with the largest A350, he said. "It might do a great job for the trip costs and the bottom line but it still doesn't give us the kind of payload and numbers that we need," he said. "The ER and its replacement remain of interest to us." Emirates Airline may push back deliveries of 10 to 12 Boeing 777s and Airbus A380s, Mr Clark also said yesterday. Last week, he said the number of deferrals would not top 10. The carrier planned to take 10 more A380s by July next year, he added.