Boeing Generates Buzz

AFTER THE 787 DREAMLINER'S DEBUT THIS SUMMER, Boeing's next anticipated arrival is the 747-8 Intercontinental, an aircraft combining various features of the Dreamliner and Boeing's 777. The passenger version of the double-decker plane is set to roll onto runways in 2010, giving many hope that it will bring the end of jet lag often caused by long-haul flights.

High, arched ceilings give a sense of space onboard, while the 777-style overhead "pivot" bins allow for more bag stowage. Special mood lighting is meant to relax passengers, minimizing jet lag, but what we suspect will really help in that department is the extra legroom.

"There will definitely be more room on that airplane," says Tim Bader, a Boeing spokesperson. "I can't give you measurements, because a lot of that depends on the layout the airlines want to do, but it is going to be much roomier."

Though the 747-8 boasts a longer body and a wider wingspan, the plane's more significant features are on the inside. "The difference is going to be the moment passengers step on the airplane," says Bader. (The entrance to the 747-8 is pictured here.) "It's a lot more welcoming and makes for a better passenger flow." The Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental's sleek, futuristic-looking entryway features a sweeping staircase, leading to the upper deck, that will facilitate improved passenger flow during boarding and deplaning

Higher Passenger Capacity

The 747-8 will carry 467 passengers—an increase of about 50 seats over current models—in the traditional three-class configuration. Although the plane will be larger than existing aircraft, Bader says that it will fit into current airport structures.

Like the 787 Dreamliner, the 747-8 also will be fuel-efficient—16 percent more so than its sibling, the 747-400. "That's a pretty dramatic increase in fuel efficiency," Bader says. "The 787 made a 20 percent increase over a similarly sized airplane, so the 747-8 is on par."

So far, Lufthansa has placed an order for 20 planes, while another five have been sold privately to VIPs, with the per-plane price close to $300 million. Bader says that Boeing is talking with 15 airlines across the world about adopting the aircraft.

The 2010 delivery date of the 747-8 is well timed—many international carriers will look to refresh their fleets starting in 2009 and continuing through 2011. "Most of the major international carriers are the ones that tend to have the current 747-400s," says Bader. "Pick any international carrier of Lufthansa's size and those would typically be candidates for the 747-8."

Though Bader couldn't tell us which airlines Boeing is in negotiations with, Travel Agent research shows that such carriers as Air France, British Airways, Northwest Airlines, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines have the 747-400 in their fleets. Another indication of likely candidates is the routes the 747-8 is best suited for: longer-haul flights between the U.S. and Europe, Asia or the Middle East.

Despite similarities to the Dreamliner in structure and industry buzz, there is one thing Boeing promises not to repeat: delays. Delivery on the Dreamliner stalled due to production holdups, but Bader promises that won't be the case with the 747-8. "The freighter will be the first version of the airplane we'll put out [in 2009]," he says, "and there is a lot of commonality with the freighter and the passenger planes, so many of the processes will be set in stone."


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