Speculation is mounting that initial deliveries of the B787 could be delayed by a further six months until 3Q09, following comments by Boeing that some redesign work was being conducted. Meanwhile, high fuel prices are causing some airlines to ground older, less efficient aircraft, which is placing additional pressure on the new generation widebody market.
Airlines in the Asia Pacific region, which are major customers of the B787, are scrambling to secure aircraft to keep their expansion plans in place, where they can. For launch customer, All Nippon Airways, further delays to the B787 could severely impede its build up of services as fresh capacity becomes available at Tokyo airports. Meanwhile Air India, with its extensive international expansion plans, is extending leases on some widebody aircraft and attempting to lease others.
Other carriers appear to be deferring some expansion. According to a CAAC network plan announced last year, China Southern services to New York (Newark), Moscow, Detroit and London were scheduled to commence in Jul-08, Oct-08, Mar-09 and Mar-09, respectively. The airline’s Chairman, Liu Shaoyang, last week stated these services will be launched “by 2012”, implying significant delays .
Jetstar is expecting to receive the first of 15 B787-8 in May-09, with the timing of deliveries “to determine a working timetable for the establishment of an Asian hub to support two stage flying between Australia and southern Europe”, according to spokesman, Simon Westaway. For Jetstar, the B787 is at present an integral part of the carrier's international expansion plans, " representing our step change into significant future growth of international operations to Asia, the Asia Pacific and southern Europe over the medium term”, according to Mr Westaway.
Overall, further B787 delays could help this region maintain high load factors and reduce pressures on yields from the weakening of the global economy.
Global aerospace firms are still bullish about the current aviation cycle, with executives from Boeing, GE Aviation, Pratt & Whitney and Goodrich, all reporting no signs of a cyclical downturn at this stage.