United Airlines Boeing 757

Boeing: Midsize Jets A ‘Niche Market’ But ‘Important’

United Airlines Boeing 757

A new mid-range plane could be in Boeing’s future, but the aerospace giant is still gauging interest from customers about their need for it. On a conference call Wednesday, Boeing management said it still sees a mid-range plane filling a “niche market, but an important one.”

If customers want such a plane, Boeing would be ready with something in the middle of the next decade, executives said.

The company ended production of its 200- to 250-seat 757 in 2004 due to waning demand and expectations that bigger variants of new, narrow-body 737s, as well as wide-body 787 Dreamliners, would serve that market.

Most of the 757s that were made are still in service, carrying passengers for United Continental (NYSE:UAL), American Airlines and Delta Air Lines. FedEx also uses a cargo version of the 757.

But European rival Airbus makes a new plane, the A321neoLR, that also fits the mid-range segment, putting pressure on Boeing to respond.

After numerous headaches developing the 787, Boeing appeared reluctant to start a new aircraft from scratch.

Last year, Boeing’s then CEO, Jim McNerney, said the company wouldn’t pursue risky “moon shots” and would instead take incremental steps in developing commercial jets.

But Boeing began surveying potential customers earlier this year about options for a new midsize plane, and airlines are already looking at ways to eventually replace their 757s.

United Vice President of Fleet Ron Baur said at an International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading conference in March that the A321neoLR “looks like a pretty decent airplane,” but he’d consider a new Boeing jet if it offers one.

Boeing Vice President of Marketing Randy Tinseth acknowledged customer demand, saying at the conference that airlines are actually interested in an airplane bigger than the 757 and with 20% more range.

Boeing: Midsize Jets A ‘Niche Market’ But ‘Important’

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