Planemakers rein in new jets to chase regional growth

Mon Aug 5, 2013 7:52am EDT
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By Tim Hepher

PARIS (Reuters) - After focusing for years on jetliners that could fly ever further, the world's leading planemakers are turning to shorter range aircraft that appeal to airlines reluctant to pay for performance they don't need.

Boeing (BA.N: Quote) and Airbus EAD.PA have spent billions of dollars building advanced jets capable of flying a third of the way round the world non-stop, but economic change has forced a new adjustment in strategy.

Boeing launched a new version of its Dreamliner at the Paris Airshow in June by chopping 1,800 km from the range of its newest jet and giving it a longer fuselage and more seats.

It says the 787-10 Dreamliner will be its most cost-efficient aircraft yet, optimized for regional operations including Asia.

Within days, Airbus EAD.PA pulled from its drawer plans for a new "Regional" version of its A350, as first reported by Reuters.

And after years of enhancing its older A330 to give it more range, it announced it would also offer a Regional version of that plane for short trips. Sources say it will be aimed at the Chinese and Indian domestic markets.

The decisions reflect both a battle between traditional rivals and a broader economic shift. Asia's newly affluent nations are increasingly trading among themselves.

Half the world's traffic growth in the next 20 years will involve Asia and traffic within the region is growing fastest.   Continued...

Boeing flags flutter as an Airbus A380, the world's largest jetliner, takes part in a flying display during the 49th Paris Air Show at the Le Bourget airport near Paris June 25, 2011. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes