During the Q3 results phone-in all these big companies go through, a little nugget let slip, almost certainly deliberately, by Denis Mullenburg, was that Boeing was thinking about re-opening the passenger order book for the 767-300ER.
This is big news. It’s starting to sound like the 797 – which many airline executives think is too late to be successful, having ceded the old 757 position to the A321/neo/LR, will never get off the ground, and even if it does its realistically 10 years away. By then it may seem like a better idea, as even A321’s will be looking very dated by then, and inevitably, technology will have changed and improved one or more aspects of design and engineering.
The 767 remains in production in freighter form, with Fedex and UPS having outstanding orders until around 2023, as well as forming the basis of the grossly over budget and delayed USAF Tanker programme.
The question that springs to mind is why bring it back? It’s around three years since the last passenger variant was delivered.
It’s a bit like why buy an A330ceo and not an A350-800? The later would have been the same size, more efficient, but cost more to buy – the same can be said with the 788. It was intended pretty much as direct replacement for the 763.
The problem is that it takes years to recoup the cost difference. A retail true cost of a 763 is about $70m, whereas a retail true cost of a 788 is about $115m – a huge difference that’s difficult to justify in an industry driven by costs.
The 767-300 is ideally positioned to go up against the current A330, its a smart alternative to a 788, it has the range and capability to do the job. It would also make for a suitable replacement for the 757 on busy domestic US routes, and for airlines whose 767’s still play a role and will be missed – British Airways for example.
Now it may come with some tweaks, maybe a slight mod here and there, and the cabin interiors might need some investment in new kit, though the seats can come right off the standard Boeing stock line. Engines don’t need testing, the whole flight certification process would be simple and quick. Most importantly there are hundreds of ageing 767’s out there that need replacing, and these customers aren’t lining up for 788’s.
It would also be a profitable programme, costs would be minimal to restart in aviation terms, it could all be done on a relative shoestring. All it would need were enough buyers to say, take 100 aircraft and it would be an easy thing to do.
Now Boeing may talk into the wind just to see how much traction it gets, they know airlines listen to what’s said on these quarterly calls, it may be nothing more than something to get analysts talking Boeing. Imaginative profitable investment is what they like to hear about. The difference this time is it might not actually be a bad idea, and it’s certainly cheap enough to make happen.