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Wed, Dec 14, 2005

Qantas Places Order For 65 Dreamliners

Bada-Boeing!

Here we go again! As we alluded to earlier on Aero-News, both Boeing and Airbus have been awaiting word on the decision by Australian-based airline Qantas on whose plane the airline was going to select to add to its growing fleet -- and how many. Well, the suspense is over, as Qantas announced Wednesday they have placed 45 firm orders for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, with options for 20 more and purchase rights for another 50 aircraft on top of that.

The order, which could net Boeing as much as $14.4 billion, sets the American aerospace manufacturer firmly ahead in the year-end race to secure the most aircraft.

While the numbers of actual orders seemingly vary from day-to-day, source-to-source (causing Associate Editor Rob Finfrock much confusion in his quest to lock down firm numbers) the Qantas order should put Boeing ahead of Airbus by approximately 100 aircraft, including options. With just 16 shopping days to go before the end of the year, that should mean Boeing will have a lock on the sales crown for 2005.

Representatives with Boeing told Aero-News the Dreamliners will be used on long-haul routes for both Qanta's mainline operations, as well as for its low-cost Jetstar subsidiary -- expected to begin operations with a fleet of Airbus A320s no later than January 2007. The first four Dreamliners will be delivered to Jetstar roughly one year later, with 27 more in operation with Qantas and Jetstar by the end of 2011.

"Today, we continue the program that is setting the airline’s course of the future," said Qantas Airways CEO Geoff Dixon. "With our unique geographic challenges, we need all the advantages we can take to compete effectively against some of the industry’s toughest. The 787 family will help us provide increased or new services by Qantas and Jetstar to 15 destinations and to destinations which we cannot currently profitably serve."

Qantas’ and Jetstar’s airplanes will be split between the 787-8 (up to 300 seats in Jetstar’s low-cost configuration) and 787-9 (up to 350 seats).

"Our relationship with Qantas dates to the very start of the jet age, and we’re thrilled to see that relationship continue with the 787,” said Alan Mulally, president and CEO, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "The 787 is a game-changer for airline profitability and for passenger comfort. Qantas’ evaluation was particularly rigorous, and we welcome this endorsement and opportunity to be part of Qantas’s future."

Boeing now has 354 orders and commitments from 26 customers for the 787, and close to 800 total orders for all of its aircraft for 2005.

While the Boeing order is unwelcome news to Airbus, the European manufacturing consortium can take some comfort that its A380 "superjumbo" will remain the flagship aircraft for Qantas... when the first plane is finally delivered in 2007, over one year later than originally anticipated.

Qantas did not state if that delay, coupled with the two-year time difference between the Dreamliner's expected intro date and the first expected delivery date of the rival Airbus A350, had an impact in the carrier's decision to go with Boeing.

FMI: www.qantas.com.au, www.boeing.com, www.airbus.com

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