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After Surge in Orders, Airlines Now Balk at Wide-Bodies

To some extent, “it’s a day of reckoning, prompted by the troubles at these three carriers,” said Richard L. Aboulafia, an aviation analyst at the Teal Group in Fairfax, Va.

Mr. Aboulafia and others say the slowdown also reflects a more fundamental shift in the types of planes that most airlines want.

Since the introduction of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in 2011 and the Airbus A350 XWB in 2015, airlines have embraced the idea of buying lighter, more fuel-efficient planes that seat around 300 people. This has enabled them to provide more nonstop flights and greater flexibility to adjust routes.

Though Airbus disagrees, Boeing and many analysts say the changes could spell the end for superjumbo planes like the A380 that have relied on funneling passengers through massive airport hubs.

“There is demand for the large end,” said David Wireman, an aviation expert at AlixPartners, a consulting firm based in New York. “It’s just not the superjumbo kind of concept.”

Boeing and Airbus are now coming out with slightly larger versions of the Dreamliner and the A350, and Boeing is developing more fuel-efficient versions of the 777, to seat 350 to 425 people, that will not be ready before 2020.

These new planes are blurring the lines in the traditional sizes of wide-body planes, and some airlines are holding back on orders to get the latest technology on the new 777.

“Has there been a slowdown? Has there been a hesitation for the bigger airplanes in the market?” said Randy Tinseth, Boeing’s vice president for marketing. “There’s no question, and we’ve made adjustments.”

Photo

A Boeing 737 MAX 9 lands during its first flight at Boeing Field on April 13, 2017, in Seattle.

Credit
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Boeing makes only six 747s a year, and it sells most of them as cargo freighters rather than as passenger jets….

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