Boeing considers new jet aimed at long-haul budget market

Boeing executives are closing in on one of their most important decisions of the decade: whether to plough an estimated $15bn (Euros 13bn) into a new jetliner family.

The aircraft, nicknamed the 797, would feature Boeing’s first all-new design since the 787 Dreamliner’s unveiling in 2004, while shoring up its product line against recent Airbus SE advances.

The European plane-maker’s incoming boss, Guillaume Faury, says he’s waiting for Boeing to tip its hand before revealing counter moves.

That sets up a likely showdown at the Paris Air Show in June.

Designed for economical flying on mid-range routes, the Boeing jet would have the potential to transform air travel by spawning a new breed of longer-distance budget carriers – think new flights from Chicago to Berlin, or more economical hops from New York to Los Angeles.

But the decision on whether to move forward hasn’t been easy.

A misfire would cannibalise sales of the 787 Dreamliner and endanger the cash bounty that has made Boeing a darling of Wall Street.

“Every single other Boeing jet has been pretty much a guaranteed home run, even if it wasn’t clear at the time,” said aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia.

“This is different. They’ve got to be careful with this.”

Boeing’s board is expected to review the case for the new programme by the end of March, according to people briefed on the matter.

For now, the team spearheading the concept, led by former 787 programme head Mark Jenks, has been meeting monthly with CEO Dennis Muilenburg and CFO Greg Smith. The sales force has been fine-tuning the design with airlines for at least five years, creating a ‘will it or won’t it?’ drama around the decision on whether to make the plane, known internally at Boeing as the NMA, for new, middle-of-market airplane.

Source: Civil Aviation Authority