One of the options raised as a possible Boeing 797 competitor was, in fact, the Boeing 767. It already flies the same route, is tried and true, and is already in the hands of plenty of airlines.
But airlines are desperate for more, and the fleet they have are starting to age, with the Boeing 767 having an average age of 22 years. But could Boeing restart production of the 767? The reality might be closer than you think.
Why do airlines love the Boeing 767
Airlines love the Boeing 767 because of its usefulness on short haul, high-density routes. Routes such as Chicago to New York feature the aircraft heavily, and it allows them to cram up to 250 passengers, 50 more than the biggest 737, in a two-class configuration.
Airlines love it so much that they are actually retrofitting old aircraft with modern passenger comforts. Delta has decided to install their new Delta One suites onto 767-300ERs, claiming that they want the same businesses class experience throughout their fleet, including on their older planes:
“We want to give customers access to the same product/choices they have on our other international widebody aircraft, We made a similar move by refreshing our 747 interiors before their retirement.” – Delta spokesperson
United is also upgrading its 767s. They will be installing flatbed Polaris seats throughout in a 1-1-1 configuration, to take advantage of the many business travelers flying between their major hubs.
“Our 767 aircraft are a good fit on the routes we operate them on — they are safe and have good operating economics, By investing in reconfiguring these aircraft we are providing our customers with a great product.” – United spokesperson.
Unfortunately, airlines will have to retire their 767 aircraft as they slowly push towards 30 years old, and with the Boeing 797 still years away, many are left with no other options than to switch to Airbus.
Unless, of course, Boeing restarted production…
Could Boeing restart production?
Now, there is an important point that this argument hangs on. Boeing wrapped up building passenger 767s back in 2012… but they have kept building freight 767s up until today. This means they are still building the same airframes, ordering the same engines and still have the same expertise onboard. An additional advantage is that the 767 is an existing plane; it is already FAA approved, tested and requires no additional training.
Now, a simple question would be, could Boeing restart production?
They currently have the capacity to make three 767s a month. With the Boeing 737 MAX facing possible delays, they could use this chance to create more 767s to fill in the gap using redundant capacity. Rumor has it that United is looking for 40 aircraft to fill in a gap in the next five to 10 years.
But realistically, the Boeing 767 is an old design for an aircraft. It has a high fuel burn per seat and would not have much longevity in a world full of MAX’s and NEOS. Should it be brought back for one last hurrah? Boeing doesn’t see it.
“Bringing back the 767 (passenger version) – I just don’t see it,” said Randy Tinseth, vice-president of commercial marketing back in March 2018.
What do you think? Should the Boeing 767 be brought back?