MALAYSIA Airlines (MAS) and its parent, Penerbangan Malaysia Bhd (PMB), have shown keen interest to add Boeing’s latest Dreamliner 7E7 to the national carrier's fleet, The Boeing Co senior sales director (international sales) Paul G. Dubeck said.
“We have been talking to them (MAS and PMB) on an array of subjects, including the 7E7, and they have excellent opportunity to be our launch customer,'' Dubeck told a media briefing in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
“It (the 7E7) is really suited for them and indications are that they would be part of the launch group,’’ he said.
Boeing expects to announce the orders for its 7E7 by end of the year, with the first aircraft delivery expected by the second quarter 2008, close to two years after the Airbus A380 takes to the skies.
The A380 offers a seat capacity of 555 – compared with about 400 in today's largest aircraft – 15% to 20% lower fuel costs, as well as 10% to 15% longer flying range.
Although MAS has indicated it would be replacing 35 of its B737 aircraft, the orders have not been firmed up yet.
MAS, PMB and Boeing are in various stages of discussions to evaluate how the national carrier could possibly maximise cost efficiency with the 7E7 versus the Boeing and Airbus models.
The 7E7 is said to burn 20%–30% less fuel per seat than a comparable Airbus or earlier Boeing models and offers 200 to 300 passenger seats. It has been indicated that the base model would cost about US$120mil. However, a launch customer can expect to make some savings.
The success of the 7E7 is crucial for Boeing, as it has taken a long time to introduce a new model whereas Airbus has topped the orders list with its A380.
Dubeck said the enthusiasm for the 7E7 came not just from MAS and PMB but also many carriers in the region, the Middle East and North America.
He expects the first customer for 7E7 to be from the South Asia region although there are reports that All Nippon Airways may be first. Dubeck also revealed that a large US carrier and several Middle Eastern carriers might be launch customers.
“The aviation industry is beginning to move after the slowdown and that is exciting for us. We are getting a lot of enquiries.
“We have a suite of services from cargo freighters, passenger aircraft, and interior modifications that we can offer airlines,’’ he said.
It was reported that MAS might also replace its fleet of 20 A330-200 and A330-300 aircraft, some of which are on lease.
Dubeck sees the 7E7 complementing the eight A380 aircraft that PMB is buying from Airbus.
“The A380s are so big that the 7E7 would act as a feeder; otherwise an airline cannot make money,’’ he said.
There will be three categories of 7E7 – the 7E7, which can seat 200 passengers and fly 15,742km non-stop; 7E7 SR, a 300-seater capable of flying 6,482km; and 7E7 Stretch, which can seat 250 passengers and fly 15,371km non-stop. It is ideal for medium haul routes.
“The 7E7 would have a lot of new features and the idea is to give it a great interior. And that would be the differentiating factor,'' said Michael J. Wilson, The Boeing Co's regional director product marketing commercial airplanes.
He said the new model would have innovative lighting and be more spacious. Humidity and cabin pressure in the aircraft would be improved and there would be bigger storage bins. But Boeing is still working out the in-flight entertainment.
Boeing may be announcing a deal with Asian Composite Manufacturing Sdn Bhd, based in Bukit Kayu Hitam, Kedah, to be a supplier for the 7E7. An announcement is due by year's end.