Observers expected manufacturer to charge a premium for fuel efficient airliner

Boeing revealed the first details of its 7E7 pricing strategy at Asian Aerospace, indicating that the list price of the airliner will be "close" to the $115.5-127.5 million range occupied by the 767-300ER, based on 2002 dollars.

The revelation surprised many industry observers at the show who expected the US manufacturer to attempt to charge a premium for the aircraft, which it claims will consume up to 20% less fuel than the 767 and its principal competitor the Airbus A330-200.

The sticker price of the A330-200 - which is slightly larger than the baseline 7E7 - is $139.6-145.5 million, based on 2003 dollars.

"We are talking price with the airlines that are entertaining proposals," says 7E7 programme director of marketing Tom Waggener, adding that Boeing aims to "offer the 7E7 at a similar price to today's 767, with all of its extra capabilities".

He admits that, among airlines, there was "until recently a mindset that we would increase the price".

Boeing gained board authority to offer the proposed 7E7 to airlines at the end of 2003 and aims to formally launch the programme later this year for service entry in 2008.

The baseline 7E7, to be offered together with a stretched version, will carry 200-250 passengers in three classes on routes between 14,500km (7,800nm) and 15,400km. A third 7E7 family member, the shorter-range 7E7SR, will accommodate nearly 300 passengers in a two-class configuration and be optimised for routes of 6,500km.

The majority of the 7E7's primary structure - including the fuselage and wing - will be made of composite materials.

Airbus chief commercial officer John Leahy says he is "about as concerned about the 7E7 as I was about the Sonic Cruiser", referring to the transonic airliner project dropped by Boeing in December 2002.

n Star Alliance member airlines are to work together to define a common 7E7 specification, marking the first time the group has discussed standardisation of a mainline aircraft. Star carriers Air Canada, Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa and Scandinavian Airlines recently joined forces in a bid to jointly specify 70- to 100-seat regional jets although so far only the Canadian flag carrier has placed an order.

"At the Star board meeting [this week] in Tokyo we will firm up more interest and get the core group of airlines," said Star chief executive Jaan Albrecht, speaking in Singapore. This core group is expected to comprise three or four airlines, and likely members include Singapore Airlines and All Nippon Airways.

Source: Flight International