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Extended 787 may help Boeing win EK deal

Boeing has acceded to Emirates’ request to produce a 300-seat version of its 'next generation' plane.

Boeing’s decision to produce an extended version of its 787 could help it secure Emirates’ expected medium-sized plane order against its rival Airbus. According to senior market sources, the American manufacturer’s announcement of the 787-10X, a 300-seat version of the plane, and Airbus’ struggles with the A350 have boosted Boeing’s chances of clinching the anticipated 50-plane deal.

Maurice Flanagan, vice-chairman and group president of Emirates, confirmed that the company was in negotiations with Boeing. “We are currently talking to Boeing for the 787-10X, which is an extended 787 aircraft. The aircraft would fit in well with our fleet,” he said.

Last year, Emirates had been evaluating the 787 along with the A350 with a view to placing a large order, but repeatedly stated that the current Boeing offering was too small for its needs. In December, the Dubai-based carrier requested Boeing to build a larger, 300-seat derivative of the 787 to replace the 777-200ER.

Mike Bair, vice president & general manager, 787 program, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, told Aviation Business: “As time has marched on and we talked to other carriers, it’s become pretty obvious to us that the interest is more widespread than just Emirates and that’s really what has caused us to look at this opportunity [an extended 787] more seriously.”

He added: “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.”

Meanwhile, criticism from customers has pushed Airbus to consider redesigning its planned A350 to improve fuel efficiency. The European manufacturer is counting on the aeroplane to compete directly with Boeing’s hot-selling 787.

A costly redesign, which would be the fifth, could spell big trouble for Airbus, delaying the plane until 2012, four years after the expected availability of the 787. However, failure to not redesign could jeopardise Airbus’s dominance in this segment of the aircraft business.

Boeing outsold Airbus last year in the crucial category of midsize wide-bodies, the twin-aisle planes that carry 200-500 people. Gustav Humbert, Airbus’ chief executive officer, has said in statements that the company is willing to address customers’ concerns regarding its A350.

Boeing’s latest figures show that 29 customers, with 393 announced orders, have gone for the 787 to date (350 firm and 43 commitments). Sami Y. Lahoud, Boeing’s communications director for the Middle East and Africa, told Aviation Business that the extended version of the 787 would definitely be built and the aircraft would be able to accommodate up to 300 passengers in a three-class configuration.

Emirates last year ordered 42 Boeing 777s, worth US $9.7 billion, from Boeing.

Emirates’ Flanagan scotched rumours that the company’s decision on whether to go for the 787 or A350 would be influenced by recent issues with the US government and Dubai Ports World. He said that the deal was of no relevance to Emirates Airline.

Emirates said that for now no firm decision had been made in regards to the order and the company was still looking at all the options. Flanagan said the company still had a long period of time to come up with a final verdict. Airbus was unavailable to comment on the current situation with the order.

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