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Boeing announces Dreamliner deal at Singapore Airshow
Published on: Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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Boeing announces Dreamliner deal at Singapore Airshow
Unlike in previous years, Boeing has not brought any physical commercial jet to the airshow this time around. (AP pic)
SINGAPORE: Boeing said today that Thai Airways had placed an order for 45 Dreamliner aircraft, the first major deal announced by the embattled US plane-maker at the Singapore Airshow.

It was one of several purchase agreements unveiled on the first day of Asia’s biggest airshow where European plane-maker Airbus is showcasing the A350-1000 and China is presenting its first domestically produced passenger jet.

With its C919 aircraft, Beijing is seeking to challenge the decades-long dominance of Airbus and Boeing while reducing its reliance on foreign technology.

In addition to the 45 Dreamliners for Thai Airways, Boeing announced that Royal Brunei Airlines had ordered four of the 787 aircraft.

It did not provide a value for the deals. At list prices, the Thai order would be worth US$13.16 billion, but customers usually get a discount when making bulk aircraft orders.

Thai Airways chief executive Chai Eamsiri said the planes would be equipped with the latest fuel-efficient engines to help the carrier cut its carbon emissions.

“We are confident that the acquisition of the 787 Dreamliners will ultimately benefit our customers and support the growth of our country’s economy,” said Chai.

State-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) said it secured an order from China’s Tibet Airlines for 40 of its C919s and 10 of its ARJ21s.

Henan Civil Aviation Development and Investment Group also bought six ARJ21s which it will use for firefighting, medical service and emergency management, Comac said in a statement.

A spokesman for Comac at the airshow would not give a value for the order.

A ‘third option’

The single-aisle C919 is a potential competitor to the market-leading A320, made by Airbus, and the 737 MAX from Boeing.

But it has yet to attract buyers outside China, and analysts said it might struggle to find a big-name buyer at the airshow.

“There’s still a stigma with the ‘made-in-China’ brand in the aviation industry, even if China now leads the world in the electric vehicle market,” said aviation analyst Shukor Yusof of Singapore-based consultancy Endau Analytics.

“It will take time for the C919 to land an order from a major carrier,” he said, even though it’s “a matter of when, not if, a top-tier airline buys a Chinese-made commercial jet”.

Brendan Sobie, who runs his own consultancy Sobie Aviation, said the Chinese brought the C919 to the airshow to “raise awareness and as a symbolic first step” to it being certified internationally.

He said airlines are eager to have a “third option” apart from Boeing and Airbus but “persuading them to buy the C919 is challenging”.

Still smarting

While Boeing was in attendance at the airshow, it has not brought any physical commercial aircraft, unlike in previous years.

Boeing is still smarting from a near-catastrophic incident in January, when a fuselage panel on a Boeing 737 MAX 9 Alaska Airlines jet blew off mid-flight.

The incident, which caused only minor injuries, led the US Federal Aviation Administration to ground more than 170 MAX 9 planes for around three weeks.

More than 1,000 aviation and defence companies are taking part in the airshow, which is held every two years.

China, South Korea and the Czech Republic have country pavilions for the first time, and Airbus is showcasing its new long-range A350-1000 plane.

Organisers expect the show to draw 50,000 trade attendees from around the world – close to pre-pandemic levels.

A watered-down airshow was held in 2020 after many of the exhibitors pulled out, and the 2022 edition went ahead but without the two days open to the public.

“2018 was the highest we’ve ever had. We are close to the best we’ve ever had,” said Leck Chet Lam, managing director of event organiser Experia.

This reflects the global recovery of air travel, he said.

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