From today's (5/19) Wall Street Journal:
By Jeff Cole
Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal
SEATTLE - Boeing Co. Chairman Phil Condit urged some airlines to order bigger planned versions of the 747 jumbo jet, shortly before the board of rival Airbus Industrie is expected to decide whether to formally offer a new 550-seat plane, according to executives familiar with the development.
Mr. Condit's personal pitch was made via letters, some of which were dated May 16, to chief executives of at least six carriers that could order the European consortium's new-design Airbus A-3XX jet. His action reflects an expanding counter-campaign by Boeing, to promote planned "747-X" variants that would increase the size of the U.S. manufacturer's biggest plane.
The latest salvos by Boeing highlight an unusually high-stakes showdown in commerical-jet manufacturing. Each producer has yet to officially commit to price, performance and delivery-date specifics for the big jets, and each still must commit seperately to proceed with production.
Mr. Condit's appeal - to carriers including Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Lufthansa of Germany, British Airways, Air France and Cargolux International Airlines of Luxembourg - says the bigger 747s "will offer better economics than any other airplane being offered by our competitor," according to executives directly familiar with the letters. Boeing appears to be getting more serious about producing the planes. Mr Condit told the carriers in the letters that "we can present you with a proposal and a business offer signifying Boeing's commitment."
A Boeing spokeswoman said letters to customers are part of "the normal course of business."
The advanced Airbus plane, which has drawn serious interst from carriers such as Singapore Airlines and Emirates Airlines, would fill the final void in the consortium's line-up of jet sizes. Airbus as yet offers no plane that matiches the 400-seat capacity of the existing 747-400. Developed at a cost of at least $12 billion, versions of the four-engine A-3XX would seat 550 to 650 passengers, or would carry cargo. Deliveries would begin in late 2005.
The Airbus supervisory board has slated a session to study letters of interest form airlines, before deciding whether to commit to the tentative offers made to carriers. Airbus seeks at least 50 orders from five carriers to launch the A-3XX. Airbus officials say they need the plane to compete longer-term with Boeing and the A-3XX is needed for routes between big hub airports. Boeing sees some added demand for giant jets, but it is betting on greater demand for somewhat smaller planes that can bypass hubs.
Boeing donimates jumbo-jet sales with its four-engine 747-400.
An unexamined life isn't worth living.