Air France to buy 10 Boeing long-range 777s

By BERNARD MCGHEE

Associated Press

SEATTLE – Air France will buy 10 of The Boeing Co.’s new long-range 777-300 jets in a deal that could be worth nearly $2 billion.

The jets sell in a range of $142 million to $193 million. Boeing would not give a precise value for the deal after confirming the order on Wednesday.

The carrier also has options to buy 10 more of the planes, Boeing spokeswoman Kathleen Hanser said. The first jet is scheduled for delivery in October 2003.

“They have a large 777 fleet,” Hanser said, referring to the 11 777’s Air France already uses. “They’re very happy with their 777 fleet, obviously. And we’re happy that they’re happy.”

The deal is particularly significant because Boeing is scoring a deal with a carrier in the backyard of its European rival, Airbus Industrie.

Singapore Airlines last week joined several other carriers in placing orders for Airbus’s A3XX superjumbo, which is expected to be in service by 2005.

Air France’s decision shows the increasing demand for smaller, more cost-efficient planes that would enable airlines to schedule more long-range flights in one day, Hanser said.

And with Boeing’s 777 being the most cost-efficient plane in the long-range market, it will be extremely competitive, said Robert Toomey, an analyst for Dain Rauscher Inc.

“I think the fact that they could sell it in Airbus’ backyard is a good testament to that,” Toomey said.

There may be more cases of Boeing and Airbus moving into each other’s territories, Toomey said.

“Both companies are crossing over into each other’s traditional customer bases,” he said. “More so than five or 10 years ago.”

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