Manufacturers scramble to boost widebody production in wake of 787 delay

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The two-year delivery delay facing many 787 customers has triggered a surge in near-term demand for passenger widebodies, prompting Boeing to prepare to relaunch production of 767-300ERs and Airbus to study further rate increases for the A330.

All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines are negotiating compensation deals that are expected to see them take new-build 767-300ERs on lease. Industry sources say early compensation negotiations have begun and the airframer has offered to build new 767s and lease them to the two carriers.

Sources say ANA has put in a request to take 15 767-300ERs on lease, which the airline wants the right to return at any time. ANA has also asked if Boeing will supply 777s on the same arrangements. JAL is believed to have asked Boeing for a similar number of 767s on lease. The two airlines expect to hear back from the airframer in June.

Boeing and ANA decline to comment on the 767 compensation negotiations, while JAL says "leasing alternative aircraft" is one option being examined.

Airbus is currently accelerating A330/A340 production to 10 aircraft a month (nine A330s/one A340), and is about to commit to raise monthly A330 output by a further unit to 10 on the back of the US Air Force KC-45 tanker deal. Airbus chief operating officer customers John Leahy says that he is now looking to "push" A330/A340 output further to 12 a month (11/one) from 2012-13.

Airbus and lessor Aircastle are in discussions about switching at least some of the latter's orders for 15 A330-200Fs to the passenger version to capitalise on the delays of the 787. Aircastle, which revealed the talks last week, is due to receive its first A330 in 2010.

Leahy says that the lessor is "looking to use its positions for the passenger version as right now they're seeing that they could get a premium, and will take the freighters later. These would be incremental aircraft, rather than replacements."

Industry sources say that Guggenheim Aviation Partners, which has six 777Fs and six A330Fs on order for delivery from 2009 and 2010 respectively, is also evaluating whether to switch some to passenger aircraft due to the surge in demand for widebodies.

Airbus has orders for 77 A330-200Fs, but observers believe that airframer faces a dilemma as it looks to capitalise on its rival's misfortunes by using A330F slots to boost availability of the passenger aircraft without undermining the status of the cargo version's orderbook, particularly as the USAF-ordered tanker is being developed from this variant.

Meanwhile, lessor Babcock & Brown Air says it has expanded its strategy to include the acquisition of more widebody aircraft as a direct result of the 787 delays. Chairman Steve Zissis says that the company believes the twin-aisle capacity shortfall will be long term, driving the company to adjust the lessor's strategy.