ANALYSIS: 777X and A350-1000 set for major fight in Asia-Pacific

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Much has been made about the proposed Boeing 777X's attractiveness to the big Middle Eastern carriers, but the type and the rival Airbus A350-1000 will also have a vast market in the Asia-Pacific, where a large base of 777-300ERs will eventually need replacement.

Data from Flightglobal's Ascend Online database shows that there are 168 -300ERs flying in the Asia-Pacific. The first of these, built in 2003, is flying with Japan Airlines. Thai Airways is the most recent Asia-Pacific recipient of the type, having received two -300ERs in 2013.

Ascend data also shows that there are 89 firm orders for -300ERs in the Asia-Pacific. Air China is the next regional carrier due to receive the type, with the regional order book stretching to 2016, when Garuda Indonesia will receive one -300ER.

777-300er regional split

Boeing has also received 66 letters of intent (LOIs) for the -300ER, and five carriers hold options for a total of 23 aircraft.

Paul Sheridan, head of consultancy in Asia at Flightglobal's Ascend division, suggests that the advent of the 777X will reduce the chances that these LOIs and options for the -300ER will be exercised.

"The impact of the 777X will occur fairly quickly," he says. An airline looking at the prospect of the -300ER in 2018 or waiting one year for the 777X, he adds, could well decide to wait a year for the more modern aircraft.

"Boeing needs to get moving pretty fast or Airbus will pitch the A350-1000 to everyone," says Sheridan. "The 777-300ER is massively successful, but Boeing needs to ensure they continue to compete."

Airbus plans for the A350-1000 to enter service in 2017, two years before the 777X. It has received 110 orders for the type globally, of which 36 are from the Asia-Pacific. Asiana Airlines has ordered 10, and Cathay Pacific 26.

Ascend data shows that Asiana is scheduled to receive one A350-1000 in 2018, while Cathay should receive six. All 36 A350-1000s the pair have ordered should be delivered by 2021.

In the next decade, the region's early adopters of the -300ER such as Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Eva Air and Singapore Airlines will be looking at replacement options.

The replacement market alone for -300ERs in the Asia-Pacific is likely to amount to 250-300 aircraft. Given the region's strong traffic growth, the total Asia-Pacific market for the 777X and A350-1000 could come up to over 300 aircraft.