United Airlines considers the planned Boeing 787-10X a "great airplane", says vice-president of fleet Ron Baur.
"The 787-10 is a great airplane," he says today, onboard the Chicago-based carrier's first revenue flight on a 787 since the aircraft was grounded in January. "It's a simple stretch [of the 787-8] and we're big advocates of simple stretches."
The proposed variant would carry about 100 more passengers than United's 787-8s, which are configured with 219 seats. This is comparable in size with some of its Boeing 777-200s.
Michael Sinnett, vice-president and chief project engineer of the 787 programme at Boeing, says that the airframer will probably launch the -10X by the end of the year.
"It will be sooner rather than later," he says onboard today's reinaugural 787 flight.
Executives at lessor Air Lease Corporation (ALC) and Qatar Airways have also expressed strong interest in the stretched 787.
"One thing we don't lack for with the -10X is demand," said James McNerney, chairman and chief executive of Boeing, in April. "Customers want this airplane."
The airframer was expected to launch the stretched 787 in the first quarter, but delayed the decision following the grounding of the aircraft by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on 16 January.
Boeing's board of directors allowed the company to begin offering the -10X for sale in October 2012.
United is also looking at the re-winged and re-engined Boeing 777X. Baur says that the airframer consulted the airline on the development of the type and that it is looking at it in addition to the stretched 787.
"We look at all the aircraft," he notes.
Boeing's board of directors allowed the company to begin offering the 777X for sale to airlines and lessors earlier in May. The company is expected to formally launch the re-winged and engined aircraft in the next few months.
United has firm orders for 25 Airbus A350-900s, which is considered a competitor of the 777X programme.