787-8 may fail to meet initial specs: Conesa

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Aeromexico fears the Boeing 787-8, which it now expects to begin receiving in 2012, may fail to meet original performance specifications including the ability to operate non-stop flights from Mexico City to Asia.

CEO Andres Conesa says Aeromexico decided to acquire five 787-8s in 2005 assuming the aircraft could operate its Shanghai, Tokyo and Rome services non-stop. But he says the carrier is now unsure if Boeing will be able to meet the specs outlined in its 787 contract.

"The expectation was that plane could go all the way to Greece," Conesa told ATI in an interview yesterday at Aeromexico's Mexico City headquarters. "It has changed. Today we don't know the final conditions." The distance between Mexico City and Athens is roughly 7,000 nautical miles.

A Boeing spokeswoman declined to directly address Conesa's comments, explaining the airframer has "ongoing conversations with each of its customers on their requirements and as a matter of company policy we do not comment on those discussions".

Aeromexico now routes its Boeing 777 Shanghai and Tokyo services via Tijuana while its Boeing 767 Rome service stops in Monterrey. Conesa says the 777 can operate Mexico City-Rome but is too large for the route, while no aircraft currently in production can operate from the high altitude of Mexico City to Asia non-stop.

"Ideally we would fly it non-stop but there is no plane in the market," he says. "Depending on the final version of the 787 maybe we can provide the service non-stop."

Conesa says Aeromexico will also have to wait two more years for the 787-8 than initially scheduled.

"Originally we were scheduled to receive the first one in 2010 and we were going to complete the transition [from 767s to 787s] in 2012," he says. "With the new calendar we'll probably complete the transition by 2014."

But Conesa adds Aeromexico potentially could move up in the queue if other 787 customers elect to defer their deliveries. "Carriers are probably revaluating things," he says.

Even if the 787 is not able to operate from Mexico City to Asia and all of Europe non-stop, Conesa says Aeromexico remains committed to the aircraft. "We are long-term partners and have a very good relationship with Boeing. I'm sure they will be able to do their best," he says.

"The 787 will be a very good plane for sure. It's a shame it has been delayed. But I think it will be worth the wait."

Aeromexico's long-haul fleet now consists of four 777s and six 767s. Three of the carrier's 787-8s are being supplied by ILFC while the other two are being acquired directly from Boeing.