Boeing eyes remaining aircraft orders in U.S. spree

Thu Dec 8, 2011 3:08pm EST
 
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(Reuters) - Boeing Co (BA.N: Quote), on track to notch its highest number of commercial aircraft orders since 2007, is working to bag what many experts say are the last available orders in a buying spree by U.S. operators.

The world's second-largest planemaker after Europe's Airbus EAD.PA is deep in talks with United Continental Holdings (UAL.N: Quote), FedEx (FDX.N: Quote) and Southwest Airlines (LUV.N: Quote) for orders for several hundred airplanes -- widebody and narrowbody --, according to industry experts and sources with knowledge of the order negotiations.

Once those customers make their deals, the long-awaited U.S. order frenzy will have run its course, some say.

"These are orders that people have been waiting for the last several years. The chapter that everybody has been waiting to turn to are the North American carrier orders," said Alex Hamilton, managing director with EarlyBirdCapital.

Hamilton noted that most of the orders are tied to fleet replenishment, not expansion, and that the appetite for new planes in this part of the world is very limited.

"There's certainly a question that's raised," he said. "We've peaked."

Boeing has taken orders for 643 airplanes this year, according to its website. The gross total is the highest since 2008, when the company scored 669 orders. But 2007 was a record year for Boeing, which took 1,423 orders that year.

An industry downturn took its toll on global aircraft orders after 2007, and U.S. carriers froze much of their spending as they slashed capacity to offset flagging travel demand.

Boeing and Airbus are bidding to sell around 150 narrowbody jets to United Continental.   Continued...