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Boeing bullish on 747-8I prospects

Boeing believes entry into revenue service of Lufthansa's first 747-8I on 1 June will help convince many wavering potential customers to place orders for the new jumbo.

Launch customer Lufthansa on 1 May flew the 1,443rd 747 built at Everett to its new home base in Frankfurt. The aircraft is the first of five expected 747-8I deliveries to the airline this year, to be followed by five per year over the next three years to complete the 20-aircraft deal.

"In the last 30 days, we have put out 25 proposals for aircraft [to a number of airlines]," says 747 programme manager Elizabeth Lund. Airlines with existing 747-400 fleets are prime sales targets. "We're having conversations about where the -8 may fit in," Lund says. "[Boeing] feels the 747-8I is a viable aircraft for all long-haul decisions."

She expects China to eventually be the "the biggest market" for the jet, which typically holds 467 passengers in a three-class configuration.

Lufthansa's fleet will hold far fewer. The airline is equipping the type with eight first-class and 92 business-class seats, all built by B/E Aerospace, with 258 economy-seats built by Recaro.

From aircraft six onwards, Lufthansa's 747-8Is will come factory-fitted with broadband connectivity, with the first five aircraft then retrofitted in Frankfurt.

Boeing had total orders for 130 747-8s - both the passenger and freighter variants - as of 1 May. The next available delivery slot is towards the the end of 2013.

Production is expected to increase to two aircraft per month, from 1.5 per month now, "very soon", says Lund. "We intend to stay at two per month for the foreseeable future."

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