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Boeing hoping for Lufthansa order of 7E7s

Boeing has high hopes of winning Lufthansa as a customer for its new 7E7 Dreamliner plane, a company executive said on Tuesday.
/ Source: Reuters

Boeing has high hopes of winning Lufthansa as a customer for its new 7E7 Dreamliner plane, a company executive said on Tuesday.

"We're optimistic that we'll get Lufthansa," Horst Teltschik, President Boeing Germany, told Reuters on the sidelines of a road show for the 7E7 in Berlin. Next stops are Rome, Dubai, London and destinations in Asia and North America.

A week ago Boeing announced its first order for the mid-sized 7E7, a 50-plane contract from Japan's All Nippon Airways, valued at $6 billion at the list price of $120 million apiece, which is routinely discounted.

But skeptics suggest political influence may have helped the sale, since Boeing handed a chunk of 7E7 manufacturing work to Japanese companies.

Lufthansa said on Tuesday it had not yet decided whether it would place an order for the 7E7, slated to debut in 2008. "There has not yet been a preliminary decision," a spokeswoman said.

But other Boeing executives also openly mentioned Lufthansa during the road show.

"Lufthansa has had numerous discussions with us; they are very open," said John N. Feren, Vice President Sales, Marketing and In-Service Support.

"We've worked closely with Lufthansa," said Marlin B. Dailey, Vice President Sales Europe.

Mike Bair, Senior Vice President for the 7E7 program, said Boeing would generally not do the maintenance for the new plane, but work with partners like Lufthansa Technik instead.

"Clearly Lufthansa is a partner that we have initiated discussions with and that could very well be in that situation," he said.

Lufthansa and TUI were among the 50 or so airlines that took part in a program to develop the specifications of the 7E7, Boeing's first new plane in over a decade.

"This participation shows that this plane can be and will be the right plane for the German market," Teltschik said.

Dailey said Boeing mentioned Lufthansa and TUI so freely because the two companies themselves were open about their involvement in the development of the 7E7.

Analysts recently named Lufthansa and Italy's Alitalia as likely 7E7 customers in Europe.

Designed to save cash-strapped airlines money on fuel and operating costs, Boeing hopes the 7E7 can help it recover ground lost to European rival Airbus, which overtook it as the world's biggest commercial jet maker last year.

Boeing displayed optimism in Berlin.

"The good news is air travel is coming back. It is recovering," said Nicole Piasecki, Vice President Marketing and Business Strategy. "2006 is the year where we'll see upward pressure in terms of production."

Boeing expects to deliver 285 planes this year and 300 planes next year, while Airbus expects to deliver 250 planes this year.

Airbus officials have said the 7E7's improvements over Boeing's current jets were minor, and that price discounts on the competing A330-200 could eliminate any advantage the 7E7 might bring for airlines.

Boeing will not take part in Berlin's ILA air show in mid-May, citing cost considerations, while Airbus says it will show its 555-seat double-decker A380 there.