Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Big Bummer Bound for Boeing?

[Photos: The 787, including prototype business-class cabin]

Looks like Delta might be having second thoughts on following through on orders for 18 Boeing 787-8s it inherited when it acquired Northwest. This (it's a little speculative, mind you) is from the Seattle paper, which follows Boeing pretty well.

[UPDATE MARCH 10 -- Delta today reaffirmed those 787 orders, rendering this blog entry, like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer story it refers to, as full of crap as regards Delta's plans for the 787. Sorry]

Boeing has an awful lot riding on its innovative new 787 line (here's the Boeing boilerplate on the plane) , which has been beset with production delays that have now pushed back the guess on initial deliveries to summer 2010. In all, Boeing has more than 850 firm orders for 787s, most of them for the 210-passenger 787-8 model that Northwest had signed up for. (Besides the 18 firm orders, Northwest had another 50 options for 787s.)

Other U.S. airline with announced orders for 787s are American (42) and Continental (28). Air Canada, meanwhile, has 37.

If Delta does cancel, it will be the first big-name airline to drop out. The Russian airline S7 canceled its 15 orders in January, followed by the Dubai-based aircraft leasing company LCAL, which cancelled 16 of its 21 orders.

It's got to be a little extra worrisome for Boeing, which markets the 787 heavily for Asian routes, that Northwest brought a lot of Asian routes to Delta.

It's interesting to note that at least 11 of the 787s on the books have been ordered by several customers to be used as business jets. Others are believed to have been ordered for personal use. Those numbers have got to be a little squishy now, given the malaise affecting the business jet business.

Meanwhile, the major airline operating stats for February are mostly out. Bad news worsening for all.

And you remember that big bet so many made on the future of premium international travel -- you know, the bet they funded partly by slashing domestic capacity to throw more big planes on overseas routes and choke service in many American cities? Um, not looking good, that bet. (Why am I sounding like Rachel Maddow here?)

Mike Boyd refers to the trend as the "neutron bomb" about to hit the major airlines.

February operating details coming up soon.


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