With the lead up to the Paris Air Show this summer (Which Simple Flying will be covering, so watch this space), many publications predict that Boeing will use the opportunity to present the Boeing 797.
Looking back at previous Boeing aircraft launches, it is very likely that a launch airline will be part of the presentation. Typically this would be one of the big three American airlines, although in the past it has been a European flag carrier (such as Lufthansa for the 777X).
So which US airlines are most likely to be the launch partner for the Boeing 797 and which would prefer to wait and see?
Who is the Boeing 797 perfect for?
Let’s begin first with outlining who the 797 will be perfect for.
The Boeing 797 will most likely be a twin-aisle aircraft carrying around 250 passengers about 4-5,000 nmi. This makes it perfect for short haul high-density domestic routes (e.g. New York to Chicago), as well as hops across the Atlantic to Paris or London. There are several competitive aircraft gunning for the 797 crown which you can read about here, but so far no airline has committed to buying one until the 797 is announced.
Additionally, airlines that operate a large Boeing 757 or 767 fleet would be interested in replacing their aircraft with 797s. As it still unclear if Boeing would restart 767-300ER production, many airlines are holding their breath and renovating their existing 20-year-old 767 fleets to keep them flying.
So, an ideal launch partner would be, in theory:
- An airline that operates popular domestic routes in the USA
- An airline that loves the Boeing 757 or 767
- An airline looking to expand capacity on routes currently operated by Boeing 737s or Airbus A320s
Who fits this bill?
We know that United is looking to replace their fleet of 40 Boeing 767s in the next 5-10 years.
“We maintain regular discussions about our long term fleet needs with the manufacturers, including Boeing and Airbus… …We have not recently asked for an offer for any particular widebody aircraft type but have in the ordinary course of discussions asked for information about several widebody aircraft including the 767.” – United statement regarding their 767 fleet renewal in 2017.
United is in fierce competition with American and Delta and will be looking for any way to beat them on New York to Chicago. We predict they will be one of the first to order the 797.
Delta Airlines operates the world’s largest fleet of Boeing 767s, they have 77 flying in the skies today with many undergoing renovations to include the Delta One ‘better than business’ suite.
Delta will be chomping at the bit if given the chance to have a ‘cheaper to operate + new technology’ 797. Their 767’s won’t last forever, and as we have seen they are reluctant to invest in the Airbus A330-800 competitor.
Now, American is a little less likely than the above two as they have decided to completely phase out their fleet of 767s and 757s. They have decided to replace their 757s with Airbus A321neos, and 767s with 787-9 Dreamliners.
Thus, they don’t actually need the 797 as a fleet replacer, and would only look at it as a new type of aircraft for new or improving existing routes. Their love the Dreamliner (which can sit around 240-270 passengers) makes it unlikely that they would need a second domestic twin-aisled aircraft.
What about the other big US airlines like Alaska, Southwest, Jetblue, and Hawaiian?
Southwest – Southwest has always operated an exclusive Boeing 737 fleet, and with their huge MAX order on the wings there seems to be no reason for them to expand into larger aircraft.
Alaska – Likewise Alaska only operates 737s and A320s, there is no real reason why they would suddenly want a bigger aircraft when its working well for them.
JetBlue – JetBlue on the other hand, has already committed to the Airbus A321neo with 85 orders (a competitor to the Boeing 797) and thus would have no reason to change their order.
Hawaiian – Like JetBlue, Hawaiian has already committed to the Airbus A321neo and doesn’t actually operate between any high dense domestic routes.
Are there any American airlines that we have missed? Let us know in the comments!