is adding another 34 aircraft to its shopping list as it targets continued long-haul growth.
The expanding airline said Tuesday it has ordered 10 more Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft and 24 next-generation Boeing 737s. "These aircraft will give us the ability to seize long-haul market opportunities, remove less efficient aircraft from our fleet and maintain our role as a global network leader," said CEO Larry Kellner, in a prepared statement. "We continue to target 5% to 7% annual growth in capacity."
The fourth-largest airline said its Dreamliner order will bring to 20 the number of 787s it has ordered, making it the largest U.S. customer for
newest widebody aircraft.
It called the 787 "the optimal aircraft to support Continental's strategy for continued international growth," and said the planes can replace less-efficient 767-200 aircraft. Continental's first Dreamliner delivery is scheduled for 2009.
Meanwhile, delivery of the 737s will give Continental 213 next-generation 737s, in combination with its previous 737 orders, and will enable Continental to replace older 737s, including its 737-300 aircraft. The first next-generation delivery is scheduled for 2008.
Among the six remaining legacy carriers, including hybrid
, Continental is by far the fastest growing. Its announcement Tuesday came amidst mounting competition between the legacy carriers for international business, a market where they have so far been unchallenged by low-fare carriers.
Delta Air Lines
added new flights from New York's Kennedy International Airport to Athens, Greece; Edinburgh, Scotland; Kiev, Ukraine; and Venice, making it the world's largest airline between the United States and Europe in terms of destinations served, seat capacity and weekly flights. Delta said its goal is to do 50% of its business overseas within three years. "We have international expansion as far as the eye can see," Glen Hauenstein, the company's executive vice president, said in an interview.
Continental, which last year began service from Newark to Delhi and Beijing, noted that it now serves more international destinations than any other U.S. airline.
Analyst Helane Becker of the Benchmark Companies said Continental is intent on maintaining its international leadership among U.S. airlines, which is based on serving the New York area from Newark Liberty. "They will continue to expand internationally, and they will do what they must to maintain their position in New York," she said. "They will use 787s in Asia, and you will see them grow as much as they can."
Continental's Kellner also noted that "Our fleet plan remains flexible, permitting us to respond appropriately to market conditions." On its Web site, Boeing said the price of planes in the 787 family ranges from $138 million to $188 million each, while new-generation 737s range from $54 million to $80.5 million. However, customers rarely pay list price for large aircraft orders.