In a perfect world, several airlines would already be flying the Boeing ( BA) 787 Dreamliner. As Delta ( DAL) CEO Ed Bastian said recently at the JPMorgan transportation conference, "We'd already have eight flying at this point in time had Boeing been able to deliver." In reality, however, the airplane faces a two-year delivery delay, meaning it will arrive in a far different economic climate than the one that existed in mid-2008.
Boeing 787 under construction
In general, the 787 delays have resulted from Boeing's effort to establish a new production process, with a far-flung supply chain shipping components to Boeing's Everett, Wash., plant, where the sixth and final 787 flight test aircraft is currently being assembled. The airplane is powered with General Electric ( GE) GEnx engines. For customers, it is unclear whether the economic downturn since the original delivery date lessens the negative impact of delay. Some airlines have expressed displeasure that they have to wait, but the interest of others -- such as Delta -- may have waned. "Assuming the airplane has the performance they promise, airlines want that sucker as fast as they can get it on the ramp," says airline consultant Mike Boyd. "These are replacement airplanes, they will have lower operating costs, and you want them now." But in a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Delta said it had dropped the aircraft from its 10-K report on new orders. "We have excluded from the report our order for 18 B-787-8 aircraft," Delta said, because Boeing has said "it will be unable to meet the contractual delivery schedule for these aircraft." At the conference, Bastian said the two parties are still talking.