Order worth $1.3 billion
By BRYAN CORLISS
SEATTLE — The Boeing Co. got a piece of definite good news Thursday: a $1.3 billion order for 747-400 freighters from Singapore Airlines.
And if no news can be considered good news, there’s more to celebrate: Qantas, expected to announce plans to buy up to 18 Airbus superjumbo jets, has delayed the decision.
The developments underscore the nature of the rivalry between the Boeing and Airbus sales forces, Boeing spokesman Gary Lesser said. "All the campaigns these days are really competitive."
The Singapore Airlines order eases a little of the sting of the airline’s recent decision to order 10 Airbus A3XX passenger jets, rather than Boeing’s proposed 747X. That was an $8.6 billion deal, which included options on up to 15 more and made Singapore the launch customer for the jet, which is projected to be the world’s largest commercial airliner.
Singapore will buy six Boeing freighters, the company and airline announced Thursday. The airline already operates nine 747-400 freighters and previously had placed orders for two more.
"The 747-400, in both passenger and freighter versions, remains an essential part of our fleet plan in the years ahead," said Michael Tan, Singapore Airlines’ executive vice president.
The order "reaffirms our commitment to be a major player in the global air cargo business," added Hwang Ten Aun, the airline’s senior vice president.
The freighter deal reflects what Boeing has said ever since Singapore’s announcement of the A3XX deal, Boeing’s Lesser said. "We’ve done lots of business with Singapore in the past and expect to do more in the future."
Qantas uses exclusively Boeing planes to haul passengers and cargo around Australia and the Pacific Basin. But Airbus Industrie officials said earlier this week they expected the Australian carrier to announce plans to buy at least 10 A3XX passenger jets, at an estimated cost of $2.3 billion.
Late Wednesday, however, the airline announced it was putting off any decision on future additions to its fleet.
Qantas is assessing superjumbo jets and 300-seaters, the company said. Its board of directors will continue discussion at its November meeting and "expects to be in a position to complete our evaluation by the end of the year," board Chairwoman Margaret Jackson said.
"It’s OK news," Lesser said, saying Boeing is trying not to read too much into it.
Boeing has a sales force that meets with key customers almost every day, he said, and "There are some where the talks are more frequent and intense."
Qantas is one of those, Lesser said. "They’re a great customer. We love Qantas."