Boeing in Talks with 15 Carriers for New Longer 747

LONDON_Boeing Co. said Wednesday that it is in talks with 15 companies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East about potential sales of its new longer 747 wide-body airplane.

Randy Tinseth, Boeing's vice president for 747 customers, said those discussions involved both the passenger and freight versions of the 747-8 airplane. Tinseth declined to name the potential buyers, comment on the number of planes under discussion or whether any North American airlines are interested.

Speaking at a briefing in London, Boeing executives also declined to comment on whether British Airways PLC, which has publicly expressed an interest in the plane, was planning to place an order.

"We continue to work very closely with BA, we are going to respond on every point," said Marlin Dailey, vice president of sales for Europe and central Asia.

Chicago-based Boeing has received 78 orders for the 747-8, including 24 passenger versions. German airline Lufthansa AG has made 20 of those passenger orders, with the other four going to private VIP customers.

Dan Mooney, vice president of the 747-8 program, said that development of the long-haul jet is on schedule.

Boeing executives stressed that the 467-seat 747-8 is not a direct competitor to Toulouse, France-based Airbus' A380 superjumbo, which has 555 seats.

With analysts and others in the industry pitting the new aircraft head-to-head, Tinseth said the 747-8 had been designed to be compatible with existing Boeing 747 and 777 fleets and the Airbus A340 and A380 family.

However, Luxembourg-based freight company Cargolux, announced 10 firm orders for the 747-8 after discussions with both plane makers in the development stages of each new aircraft.

Analysts believe that after concentrating massive resources on the A380, Airbus has been outmaneuvered by the 787, which delivers better fuel economy than older four-engine Airbus jets in the same size category.

Higher fuel prices have made the fuel-efficiency argument more persuasive. Airbus unveiled a restructuring Wednesday to cut 10,000 jobs over four years as it tries to overcome costly delays to its A380 program and the effects of a weaker U.S. dollar.