Commentary

Boeing Sees Demand Rising, Offers Peeks At Narrower Future Aircraft

For all the complaints about cramped, cranky and confusing airline service in recent years, transporting people and things through the sky is a growth business — an assertion underscored by Boeing revising upwards its rolling 20-year industry forecast for passenger and freight traffic at the Paris Airshow this morning. 

Chicago-based Boeing says “passenger traffic is poised to grow 4.7% over the next two decades. The outlook is more bullish than one European rival Airbus SE delivered this month, which projected 4.4% growth,” Robert Wall reports for the Wall Street Journal.

“More than half the planes Boeing expects to deliver are intended to help airlines expand. The planemaker said the rest, about 43%, will be used to replace less efficient planes being phased out. Almost 40% of the planes will go to customers in Asia, driven heavily by booming air traffic in China,” Wall continues.

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Narrow is in; huge is out. 

“We don’t see much demand for really big aircraft going forward,” says Randy Tinseth, Boeing’s VP for marketing. “The market is especially hungry for single-aisle airplanes as more people start traveling by air,” he points out, and it expects to sell 29,530 of the narrow-body planes, Wall reports.

Indeed, “the U.S. planemaker dropped the category reserved for four-engine behemoths from its annual forecast for the commercial-aircraft market. Instead, Boeing predicts that airlines will use more efficient twin-engine jets for long-range flights — like its 787 Dreamliner and 777X, or a mid-market plane that’s on the drawing board,” Bloomberg’s Julie Johnsson reports.

“By leaving so-called very large aircraft off its two-decade projection for a $6.05 trillion jetliner market, Boeing said it was reflecting a market reality: There is little to no chance of reviving sales of those models. [Boeing] and Airbus already had pared production of their biggest aircraft as orders dwindled, and Boeing has warned it may stop making the 747’s passenger version,” Johnsson continues.

Tinseth says that Boeing expects to sell “just a handful” of the behemoths known as the “Queen of the Skies” for passenger use —“VIP private planes for foreign heads of state plus the two or three heavily modified 747s that will be supplied to serve as the Air Force One planes for the U.S. president,” Dominic Gates tells us in the Seattle Times

Speaking of smaller, Boeing yesterday unveiled the 737 MAX 10, which will compete with Airbus’ A321 Neo airliner. It said it already had more than 240 orders for the aircraft, worth more than $30 billion. Its fuselage is stretched by 66 inches, reports Alan Tovey for The Telegraph.

“The 737 Max 10, which could enter service in about 2020, will be about the same size as the A321 — meaning it will have up to 230 seats — and is likely to have a roughly similar range to the Airbus jet,” says Tinseth, Peggy Hollinger reports for Financial Times. “But it will deliver huge operating savings to airlines, he argues.” 

“It will be a little lighter and more efficient [than the Airbus A321 Neo] so it will have lower operating costs, [saving] about $1 million to $1.5 million in value every year,” Tinseth says. 

Leasing firm Aviation Capital Group, for one, has ordered 20 of the new jets, worth a total of $2.5 billion at list prices, Reuters’ Tim Hepher and Victoria Bryan report. The 737 MAX 10 “is getting a big endorsement from airlines and that is leading to more lessors endorsing it too,” says Ihssane Mounir, Boeing VP for sales and marketing.

Meanwhile, Boeing released the first image of its new New Midsize Airplane concept today “as a teaser for what will be the company's first new airliner since its 787 Dreamliner,” Jon Ostrower reports for CNN Money. With two aisles, it has unofficially been dubbed the 797.

“The jet will be tailored to offer relief to congested airports on routes such as New York to Los Angeles, but should also be efficient enough to serve medium-range flights connecting the U.S. to smaller European cities, for example,” Ostrower continues. 

But not everybody is enamored of the concept.

“While interest appears to be building from both potential customers and suppliers,” Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, for one,“ does not see any need for it and believes Boeing should concentrate on developing the 787 instead,” Max Kingsley-Jones writes for FlightGlobal

“I've already told Boeing that if they fine-tune the 787-8, it could be a perfect midsize aircraft. They don't need to reinvent the wheel,” says Baker, stretching the cliché to it upper limits.

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