Boeing Co is moving ahead with efforts to sell a long-awaited stretch version of its fuel-efficient 787 Dreamliner that poses a serious threat to Airbus' best-selling rival.
Boeing's sales negotiations with airlines and leasing companies could lead to an announcement of an initial customer as early as this month, industry sources said.
Aviation Week reported Wednesday that the new jet would be 18 feet longer than the current 787-9 derivative, providing room for 43 more passengers, for a total of 320. Those specifications coupled with its low operating costs would make it a powerful rival to the popular Airbus A330.
Boeing said it had already been talking with airlines and aircraft leasing companies to define specifications for the 787-10, the biggest version of its revolutionary carbon-composite plane.
"We are beginning to discuss more details about the airplane with customers," the company said Wednesday. It is understood that those details specifically included sales.
Formal launch of the program, which commits Boeing to actually produce the jet, is still "conditioned upon our obtaining final board approval to launch the program at yet-to-be determined date," Boeing said.
"The timing of a decision to launch the program will depend on market response during this next phase of our discussions about the airplane," Boeing said Wednesday.
The wide-body A330-300 is one of Airbus's best-selling products but relies on a heavier metallic airframe.
In contrast, the carbon-composite 787-10 will be pitched to airlines for long-haul travel, such as intra-Asian routes.
Although planemakers never publicly discuss discounts, analysts say Airbus is expected to offer the A330 at low enough prices to ensure it is still profitable to airlines to own and operate the plane over its lifetime, even though the lighter Boeing aircraft is likely to boast savings in fuel costs per passenger for an individual trip.
The list price of the 295-seat A330-300 is $231 million.
(Reporting by Alwyn Scott; editing by Andrew Hay)