Chinese airlines to order 60 Boeing 7E7s

Friday, January 28th 2005, 1:11 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ At least a half-dozen Chinese airlines have agreed to order 60 of Boeing Co.'s 7E7 jetliners in a deal that could be worth as much as $7.2 billion at list prices.

A signing ceremony was planned Friday at the Commerce Department for what would be the largest firm order to date for Boeing's new fuel-efficient jet, which will be able to fly directly to China from a host of U.S. cities.

The announcement gives Chicago-based Boeing a boost in its competition with European rival Airbus SAS for business in China, the world's fastest-growing airplane market.

The first of the jetliners will be delivered in 2008, Xiamen Airlines Co. said in a statement Friday.

Aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia with the Fairfax, Va.-based Teal Group said the large order from a broad swath of Chinese airlines is ``a validation of Boeing's market approach,'' which emphasizes the flexibility and fuel efficiency of the new 7E7.

The 7E7 ``had a very strong appeal to the Chinese,'' Aboulafia said. ``Right now there are very few direct flights to Beijing or Shanghai from the U.S. Most of them stop somewhere.''

The Chinese order was also seen, in part, as an effort to deflect criticism about China's swelling trade gap with the United States. The U.S. trade deficit through November was $147 billion, the largest trade deficit the U.S. has with any nation.

Besides Xiamen, the orders are expected from China Southern, China Eastern, Air China, Hainan, and Shanghai airlines.

The 7E7 Dreamliner, which is to go into service in 2008, competes with the A350 being developed by Airbus. The Toulouse, France-based company expects to put its plane into service by 2010.

At the end of last year, Boeing had firm orders for 56 of the planes and tentative agreements for an additional 70 planes.

Boeing's twin-aisle Dreamliner comes in three models, able to seat between 223 and 296 passengers with a range of up to 9,800 miles. Boeing says it will be 20 percent more fuel-efficient than comparable airplanes on the market today.

Boeing has said the 7E7 will be priced at about $120 million, though airlines usually negotiate discounts for large orders. The plane will be assembled in Everett, Wash., about 30 miles north of Seattle.

The largest order by a single airline for the 7E7 was placed last spring, when All Nippon Airways of Japan ordered 50.