As the competition between aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus heats up to win the $270 million El Al contract for two new aircraft before the end of the year, Boeing is looking further down the line and sees its new 787 Dreamliner as the ideal aircraft for the airline's long-haul routes.
"The 787 is perfect for the Israeli market," Nicole Piasecki, Boeing VP Business Strategy and Marketing, said in an interview Thursday. "Given El Al's need to fly nonstop long-distance destinations, the Dreamliner was built to provide exactly that."
El Al said last week that it was in negotiations to purchase either two Boeing 777-200's or Airbus 340-200's to be used on flights to the US and Asia and that it expected to close the deal in December to receive the aircraft in 2007.
El Al CEO Chaim Romano told The Jerusalem Post Thursday that the airline is considering the 787 and other planes in its longer-term fleet renewal plans.
"The two planes [to be purchased this year] solve our immediate need to replace aircraft that are to be moved to the cargo fleet," said Romano. "Our plan over the next five to 10 years is to further upgrade our fleet, and we are looking at the market for different options."
For Boeing, the three-member 787 family (including the 787-8, 787-9 and 787-3 Dreamliner) is indicative of its view that the nature of air traffic will be characterized by nonstop point-to-point travel. Its European competitor Airbus believes that the pressure points will be at busy hub airports, with their limited take-off slots, and has invested in building the A380, the world's highest passenger capacity plane, to reduce that congestion by carrying more passengers per takeoff.
"Both companies have the same view on how the rate at which air travel will grow over the next 20 years," Piasecki said. "We differ in how we believe the airlines will serve passenger needs under the framework of that growth."
The 787, she added, allows airlines to travel long haul more often and with greater fuel efficiency.
Earlier this year, Airbus told a press briefing of Israeli journalists at its base in Toulouse, France, that it believes the growth in the market will show in both hub-to-hub and point-to-point routes which bypass the major hubs. For this reason, it said that it has invested in the A330, A340 and A350 for long-haul flights.
With its lower passenger capacity of 223 seats, the 787 has a similar deck size to the 777 and a flight range of 15,700 km. The 777 family of aircraft (made up of the 777-200, 777-200ER and the 777-300) carries between 301 and 368 passengers in a three-class configuration and, like the 787, focuses on long-range destinations. Boeing said that the 787 differentiates from the 777 due to its greater efficiency.
The Seattle-based company said it has received 273 firm orders for 787 planes after a year of going to the market. The first delivery is scheduled for 2008.