Sept. 20--Clearing the skies ahead of the forthcoming Dubai Airshow, Lufthansa on Thursday announced its largest-ever aircraft order, including 34 Boeing 777-9X and 25 Airbus A350-900 jets.
The mammoth fleet renewal worth around $19 billion at list prices has finally ended the guessing game on who could be the first customer for the latest version of Boeing's 777 jet -- Emirates or the German carrier.
Lufthansa, Europe's largest airline by revenue, expects the fleet expansion with the latest aircraft of cutting-edge technologies to cut fuel consumption and shrink unit costs by about 20 per cent compared to old models.
Boeing welcomed Lufthansa's selection of the 777-9X for its future long-haul fleet. "We are focused on developing and delivering a superior airplane that ensures the 777 remains the unequivocal long-haul leader," said John Wojick, senior vice-president of Global Sales, Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
"With its new engines and an all-new composite wing design, the 777X will be the largest and most-efficient twin engine jet in the world with 20 per cent lower fuel consumption and 15 per cent lower operating costs than today's 777. Boeing is delighted that Lufthansa is continuing its longstanding partnership with Boeing by selecting the 777X for its future fleet development."
Earlier in the day, "read my lips" was the name of the game at a Boeing briefing here on Wednesday with a slew of executives grinningly beating around the bush on the most important breaking news the aviation industry is looking forward to -- will the forthcoming Dubai Airshow deliver a mammoth deal on the much-awaited 777x aircraft?
The message was ultimately loud and clear -- there would be some announcement regarding the 777x in the run up to the air show or at the event itself.
Meeting a team of Middle Eastern journalists, Martin A. Bentrott, Boeing's vice-president, sales, the Middle East, Russia & Central Asia, tried to jump the gun on the issue, guessing on every one's interest in the latest version of one of Boeing's most successful aircraft.
"Certainly, one of the areas of interest for you would be the 777x for which there is strong interest from our customers in the region," Bentrott said. And sooner did he get inundated with questions regarding Boeing's potential deal on the machine, especially with Emirates airline.
"We have been actively engaged with Emirates on the next generation 777 and as the largest 777 customer in the world, they deserve our focus and our attention. From our stand point, this family of airplane needs to be effective for Emirates' business plan because their vision is they have a 777 replacement cycle starting towards the end of this decade," he said.
"So they expect us to be able to provide them an airplane much more efficient in operation than today's 777 with even more capabilities.
"We have been working closely with them to be certain that we are meeting their expectations with the design of this airplane," Bentrott said, adding: "For the last two and half years we have been actively engaged and encouraged to move forward on the programme."
Asked who could be the first customer for the 777x, he said there had been a lot of speculation about it in the media recently, especially about the carrier Lufthansa.
"So my sense is in advance of the Dubai Airshow, there will be some communication around customers, but I cannot give any specifics," Bentrott said.
Asked to mention any airline other than those from the Middle East which Boeing is in talks on the 777x, he said: "Airlines that operate the 777 today are all interested in the next generation 777. Airlines in Japan, well-established and highly respected carriers like Singapore Airlines, which have set the tone for the marketplace along with carriers in the Middle East, Lufthansa and British Airways are the kind of customers that would want to learn more about the airplane."
The US plane maker also announced that the launch of the 777X -- arguably the most fuel-efficient aircraft in the world -- is imminent.
Emirates' current backlog of orders for the 777 will result in nearly one airplane per month on average rolling off Boeing's Everett assembly line for the next four to five years.
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Boeing Co. said it has signed a record-breaking number of customer orders and commitments for the 777X, the aerospace giant's new twin-aisle commercial jet.