Executives at Continental Airlines remain committed to the 787 despite the delays and mishaps that have plagued the programme during the last two years.
Houston-based Continental placed its 787 order in December of 2004, and Flightglobal's ACAS database shows Continental has a total of 35 on order - 11 787-8s and 14 787-9s.
Today during an event to mark Continental's official entry into the Star Alliance, carrier President and CEO-elect Jeff Smisek said the carrier is scheduled to take the first aircraft delivery in late 2011. Smisek did not specify how many aircraft Boeing would deliver to Continental in 2011, but under previous schedules the carrier was due to accept three 787s from the airframer.
Although Smisek says the aircraft will be "admittedly late", he remains bullish about its capabilities. The aircraft will allow Continental to replace 777s on longer route such as Mumbai in the low season and reinstate the larger aircraft during times of higher demand. Smisek stresses the 787 should allow Continental to maximise the profitability of those types of routes.
During a recent interview with ATI sister publication Airline Business Smisek also highlighted that Continental should gain a jumpstart on other US carriers who could potentially operate the 787. "With Delta and Northwest getting sidelined with their merger and not quite sure what they're doing with the 787we move up the line if you will with respect to timing of getting the aircraft. So we'll have a multi-year head start on our competition."
Describing the 787 as one of the most complex engineering programmes in the world today, Smisek says: "You would expect some degree of delay. Obviously the number and magnitude of delays has been disappointing to us. At the same time we are patient because we realize the prize is worth the wait."