Japanese carrier "in no hurry" to order airliner as US manufacturer prepares new round of presentations

Boeing is pressuring Japan Airlines (JAL) to join rival All Nippon Airways (ANA) this year as a 7E7 customer or risk losing early delivery slots to other carriers.

Industry sources say Boeing is giving JAL a new round of presentations over the next few weeks that could lead to a second request for proposals (RFP) being issued in the third quarter and an order by year-end. JAL issued an RFP late last year for Airbus A300 and Boeing 767 replacements, but decided against an early order and to instead focus on shoring up its financial situation and on completing a merger with Japan Air System (JAS). JAL's management is believed to be ready to look again at the 7E7 given its improved financial outlook for fiscal 2004 and the completion last week of the first shareholders' meeting for the merged company.

To secure 2008 and 2009 delivery slots, an order will probably have to be placed by year-end, given that several other 7E7 orders are in the pipeline, including from Emirates, Kuwait Airways, Singapore Airlines, the Chinese government, a new Chinese leasing company and at least one established international leasing company.

JAL confirms Boeing has been invited to make a new round of presentations, but says it is in "no hurry" to order the 7E7. One of the presentations involves a team of Boeing engineers demonstrating how the unprecedented use of composites in the 7E7 is safe. This presentation helped Boeing cement ANA's order for 50 aircraft in April.

"Our maintenance department was very concerned about composite materials but [after the presentation] we have confidence. So we go for 50 orders," says ANA director of network planning Yuji Hirako.

He adds that ANA was also won over by the "very good economics" of the 7E7. The 7E7 is set to replace ANA's 42 Boeing 767s - 35 of which are operated domestically - and seven domestic Airbus A321s. But the carrier has not decided on a breakdown of 7E7-3 short-haul and 7E7-8 baseline versions, and has just begun studying how to deploy the aircraft after first delivery in 2008.

Hirako says ANA has the right to specify two years ahead of each delivery slot whether it wants the 7E7-3 or -8. This could hinge on how many international flights ANA will be allowed from Tokyo Haneda after a new runway opens there in 2009.



Source: Flight International