Boeing: “A Lot Of Pent-Up Demand” In China Widebody Market

Credit: Boeing

SINGAPORE - Boeing is hopeful to get back into business with Chinese airlines as soon as the trade tension has abated. Also, the impact of the Corvid-19 virus outbreak is “a temporary shock,” to aviation, Boeing's Senior Vice President Commercial Sales and Marketing, Ihssane Mounir told Aviation Week.

“There is a lot of pent-up demand in the widebody market,” Mounir said Feb. 12 at the Singapore Airshow. Due to trade tensions with the U.S., carriers from Asia’s biggest market “have hit the pause button, but the fundamentals are still there.”

Boeing recently announced it will further reduce 787 production from 12 aircraft per month to ten, and some analysts have voiced concern that the manufacturer may have to go below ten if China does not come back into the market soon. Mounir, however, sees Boeing staying at ten “for a couple of years and then go back up again.” He pointed out that “widebodies are a two-year lead time play [from the time the order is placed], so when China reopens it is still two years to go.”

Mounir sees the 787-10 in particular as being “at the beginning of something special. People see it as a 777-200ER replacement. Now they are talking to us about improving the capabilities of it a bit.” There are currently very few outstanding orders for 787 in China. Combined orders total 101 aircraft from seven airlines - Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, Hainan, Xiamen, Ruili Airlines and Okay Airways. 89 of the aircraft have already been delivered.

There are currently no Chinese airline orders for the 777X. Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific bought 21 of the aircraft in 2013.

Boeing’s head of commercial sales is very bullish about 777X prospects. “The market space is enormous,” he said, pointing at the installed 777 base of 1,481 aircraft.

He predicts a “huge peak” in replacement demand in 2023 and 2024, which is when some of the early 777-300ER deliveries come up for replacement. Boeing delivered the first -300ER in 2004. Mounir gets “frustrated by people saying that we have not sold enough 777Xs.” In April 2003, a year before entry-into-service of the -300ER with Air France, Boeing had 87 orders for the type, according to its own database. There are currently 309 firm orders for the 777X.

Mounir also pointed to the fact that the A380 is no longer available and that further sales of the 747-8 passenger version are unlikely. Therefore he argued that the 777-9 has little competition in the market for very large aircraft. The A350-1000 has around 50 fewer seats, depending on the configuration.

Jens Flottau

Based in Frankfurt, Germany, Jens is executive editor and leads Aviation Week Network’s global team of journalists covering commercial aviation.