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Boeing raises pitch for IA deal

Mumbai, Dec. 10: Boeing Company, the aerospace giant, today said it was willing to work with Indian Airlines and meet its requirements. This comes even as Indian Airlines indicated that it would be purchasing 43 aircraft from rival Airbus to meet its fleet expansion programme.

Dinesh Keskar, senior vice-president, sales, and president (aircraft trading) Boeing Commercial Airplanes said the company was “willing to work with Indian Airlines to meet its requirements.”

“Like we do with other airlines in the world, we are willing to work with IA,” he added. When asked if any offer of a price cut was made to IA or if he had met civil aviation ministry officials in the capital, Keskar said that Boeing had not made any fresh offer and neither did he have discussions with officials in the airlines or in the ministry.

The IA board approved a $ 2-billion order from Airbus on March 27 last as part of a fleet acquisition plan. The order is currently at the pre-public investment board stage.

“However, political considerations and relationships do matter and it is for the airline and the government, which is the ultimate authority, to decide and we will respect that decision,” Keskar noted.

Keskar’s comments could be a pointer to the impending war between the two global giants for securing large orders from India. Incidentally, in September the board of Air-India had approved a plan to acquire 17 long-range aircraft over a five-year period spanning April 2003-08.

The acquisition would include both 400-plus and 250-plus seaters. It shortlisted Boeing 777-200 ER (extended range) and the Airbus A340-300 aircraft for its long haul flights.

Keskar added that the Boeing 777-200 ER was ideal for Air-India to operate non-stop flights from India to the US, which is expected to grow at over 5 per cent annually.

According to Keskar, India's travel demand is scheduled to increase by 6.3 per cent annually in the period 2002-21. Based on these figures, future deliveries in the country over this period is likely to be 290 airplanes which is $ 22 billion in delivery dollars.

He added that over the past few years, the company has been looking at providing a range of services in India. These include fleet support, modifications, engineering and training. Further, the company is also looking at customer solutions that would cover air traffic and fleet management.

Commenting on the current industry situation, he said that while traffic is returning to pre-9/11 levels, airline yields are still low and security lines continue to remain a concern. Though traffic worldwide has not matched the 2000 levels, Asia was the bright spot.

Estimates say that close to 1900 aircraft are now parked in the globe and among them, 900 old ones will never fly again. “The remaining 550-600 aircraft that are less than 10 years old will slowly come out of the parking lots as recovery continues,” Keskar said.

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