Lufthansa backs major Airbus, Boeing jet order

Wed Sep 18, 2013 9:08pm EDT
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By Marilyn Gerlach

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Deutsche Lufthansa (LHAG.DE: Quote) signaled a major aircraft order to drive down fuel costs on long routes, saying its board had backed modernization plans that industry watchers expect to benefit both Airbus EAD.PA and Boeing Co (BA.N: Quote).

Germany's top carrier gave few details after Wednesday's board decision, but people familiar with the matter said the deal could include $14-15 billion of firm orders split between jetmakers, including the first order for a revamped Boeing 777.

Lufthansa is in the middle of a deep restructuring that includes 3,500 job cuts, while investing in modern jets to cut its fuel bill and catch up with Middle East rivals particularly on highly fought-over routes between Europe and Asia.

Lufthansa said outgoing Chief Executive Christoph Franz would hold a news conference at 11 a.m. local time (0900 GMT) on Thursday in his first public appearance since he announced he was quitting to be chairman of Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG ROG.VX.

The influential airline's decision is keenly awaited as Airbus and Boeing scramble for advantage in the lucrative market for twin-engined jets carrying between 300 and 400 people.

Excluding options, Lufthansa is expected to order up to 45 aircraft, including the first solid order for a revamped version of Boeing's best-selling twinjet, code-named 777-9X.

Designed to compete with the newer Airbus A350-1000, the upgraded 777-9X aircraft aims to carry 41 more seats while burning less fuel per seat than the existing 365-seat Boeing 777-300ER.

MAJOR ORDER   Continued...

Lufthansa aircrafts sit on the tarmac at Frankfurt airport July 12, 2013. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski