Cathay mulls 787-10 to replace A330s

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Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific are among the major carriers expressing interest in Boeing's proposed 787-10X as momentum builds towards gaining board approval to proceed with the double-stretched variant.

Speaking at a ceremony in Seattle to mark delivery of its first 787-8 on 12 November, Qatar chief executive Akbar Al Baker indicated a desire to launch the type, adding that, based on Boeing's claims, the -10X promises "one of the best seat-mile costs of any airliner".

Qatar has 30 firm 787 orders and 30 options and Al Baker indicates that a substantial number of these could eventually be -10Xs. "We have the flexibility to change the type within the 787 family," he says.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Ray Conner confirms that Qatar is among the airlines approached with proposals for the -10X which, with 320 seats, will compete with types including the Airbus A350-900 and the A330-300. The 787-10X is ideal for "high-density regional routes", he says.

Conversations have been taking place with a number of airlines regarding becoming launch customer, says Conner. "We have had interest in the airplane for a long time," he says. "We will see if that interest continues to grow and then go to the board for approval."

Cathay Pacific will consider the Boeing 787-10 as a replacement for the Airbus A330-300s it uses on regional and medium-haul routes.

Hong Kong's flag carrier will consider the variant if it fits its requirements, says Cathay chief John Slosar: "We use the A330s on a lot of regional routes and they are fantastic for us, and there really is still a market for the A330s and possibly even the older [Boeing] 777s.

"But the 787-10 could be interesting. In a way, it will depend on where Boeing go with it. It will be something that will not have the range of the 787-9, but it would be an 'A330-plus' with range and really superior economics. And we would consider the aircraft if we thought that it would fit."

Slosar indicates that detailed decisions on the type for Cathay are still some way off.

Taiwan's Eva Air is waiting for Boeing to provide more information on the 787-10X before making a decision next year on replacing its A330s. The airline is also assessing the A350-900, says senior vice-president Glenn Chai.

"Boeing has said that it will release some information on the 787-10 by the end of 2012. We have already received the information we need on the A350-900. We will make a decision in 2013," he adds.

Eva has ordered seven more 777-300ERs, joining 15 others, to replace its 747-400 fleet. "This will help us to grow our transpacific services by 20-30%," says Chai.