Boeing considers twin-aisle B737

8 Mar 2011

It was a big day for Boeing today, announcing possible plans for a new concept aircraft to replace the Boeing B737 and revealing aircraft orders with Hong Kong Airlines and Air China.

At the Asia Aerospace Expo 2011, the aircraft manufacturer unveiled research showing the single-aisle B737 aircraft remains the most popular aircraft among all of Boeing’s planes since 1989. This particular model makes up more than 61 percent of Boeing airplanes around the world and is predicted to occupy 68 percent of the market by 2029.

In Asia-Pacific alone, where air traffic is expected to grow by a total of 6.8 percent per year over the next 20 years with the most growth concentrated on short-haul domestic and inter-regional routes, the single-aisle plane will occupy 64 percent of aircraft fleet by 2029.

In light of these findings, Boeing is “seriously considering a new B737 for the market by the end of the decade,” said Randy Tinseth, vice-president of marketing for Boeing commercial airplanes, to replace the current aircraft. Tinseth said Boeing is contemplating the future of the single-aisle market. "We're spending a lot of time with our customers to understand their needs and preferences for an airplane that will serve the single-aisle market for the next 50 years."

The new aircraft will be similar to the Airbus A320 New Engine Option (NEO), which is 15 percent more fuel-efficient than the current A320 and therefore, reduces maintenance costs. Tinseth stated that if Boeing decides to build a new aircraft it will also have increased fuel efficiency and will probably have twin aisles instead of a single aisle with similar number of seats, providing passengers with greater space and comfort. Though, nothing has been confirmed.

“We are taking our time making this decision,” said Tinseth. “We could make an announcement as early as this summer.” In the meantime, Boeing will increase production of the current B737 models.

When faced with new competition in the form of China’s single-aisle Comac C919, Tinseth stated that Boeing will “be fine”. He said: “China is such a dynamic and fast-growing market that there is plenty of room for new competition whether it is Airbus or Comac.”

The company also signed an agreement with Air China for the purchase of five jumbo B747-800 Intercontinental aircraft. As reported earlier on Business Traveller (see story here), the new aircraft was unveiled on February 13, 2011, and Air China is the third carrier after Lufthansa and Korean Air to purchase the plane. The airline will use the aircraft to expand its international network however the agreement is awaiting approval from the Chinese government therefore delivery schedules have yet to be confirmed.

Additionally, Hong Kong Airlines signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Boeing for 32 commercial aircraft: 30 B787-900 Dreamliner and two B787-8 VIP. This carrier will also use the new aircraft to expand its long-haul network though negotiations will continue before the agreement can be finalised.

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Alisha Haridasani

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