Lufthansa and Air Lease Corp (ALC) are vying for launch customer status on Boeing's proposed stretched 787-10X.
Nico Buchholz, Lufthansa senior vice-president of corporate fleet, sees the aircraft as an ideal fit for the carrier as the airframe is not over-optimised to fly further than necessary for its route network.
The carrier has conducted extended evaluations of both the 280-seat 787-9 and 323-seat 787-10X to fill the approximately 200-to-300-seat fleet segment that is currently occupied by the Airbus A330-300, A340-300 and A340-600.
Boeing's newly-appointed senior vice-president of marketing, Mike Bair, says the 787-10X potentially provides a "absolutely astounding" improvement in performance, with 50% lower operating costs than the A340-600.
If Boeing moves ahead to "launch the airplane, we could be a definitive launch customer for the -10, in tandem with [ordering] some -9s. So that's in the oven," says Steven Udvar-Hazy, chief executive of ALC.
But Udvar-Hazy says any order depends on "Boeing's ability to translate talk into a firm commitment to build the -10".
ALC is also pressuring Boeing for an additional 1.4-1.8t (3,000-4,000lb) maximum takeoff weight above the baseline 251t, which would add 400nm (740km) to the aircraft's range. This will "make a big difference" for some customers, says Hazy.
The "simple stretch" of the 787-9, adding 5.5m (18ft) of fuselage, would create an aircraft capable of flying between 6,705nm to 6,745nm depending on the engine selection, say those familiar with the concept.
"It still serves probably 85% of the long-range routes and will have really good economics on seat mile costs and more cargo with the stretch both in front of and in the back of the wing," says Udvar-Hazy.
The launch of the -10X could be paired with a 353-to-407-seat 777X concept at the end of the year, says Udvar-Hazy, who believes that service entry of the third 787 model would occur before the revamped 777.
"The issue that we are looking at is exactly when in the production cycle should we put this into the line." says Bair.
"We're looking at maturity in rate ramp-up on the current [787-8] and how we're going to balance that against the introduction of the -9. When we're comfortable we've got an industrialisation plan that works, the [787-10X] itself is pretty obvious."