LONDON: Boeing plans to bring out a new minor model of its best-selling 737 passenger jet with extra seats, the head of its planemaking division said, stepping up efforts to woo low-cost carriers in competition with Europe’s Airbus.
Announcing the move on the eve of the Farnborough Airshow, the head of the US planemaker’s jetliner branch said yesterday the 200-seat variant would be five percent cheaper to operate.
It will be certified to hold 200 passengers which is 11 more than the maximum allowed in the most popular version of the 737, Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Ray Conner said.
Boeing will add an extra door behind each wing to allow an increase in the maximum of seats which, under safety rules, is closely tied to the number and layout of evacuation points.
Airbus last month announced a similar drive to increase capacity on its A320 passenger jet family as airlines seek to drive down costs per seat. Planemakers compete aggressively for orders of single-aisle, medium-haul jets and are producing at record levels. More seats also mean lower operating costs per seat — the key driver of aircraft economics.
Airbus has said it will increase the certified maximum number of seats for its A320 model to 189 seats from 180 seats.
Conner said he was not worried about a let-up in demand for such airplanes, despite concerns among some airlines and analysts about overcapacity that have taken the edge off a two-year surge in aerospace industry share prices.
“We feel upward pressure at the rates we have today, and are seeing much more demand than we have (built into) our production rates,” he said. The same upward pressure is also true of the carbon-composite 787 Dreamliner wide-body jet, whose production has stabilised at 10 a month, he said.
Conner said he was confident the “more efficient” 787 would be able to compete effectively against a revamped version of the Airbus A330 that Boeing’s rival is expected to launch today.