A strike at Boeing would delay not only the much-hyped 787 Dreamliner, but also derivatives based on two of the company's wide-body staples. The 747-8, a cargo plane that incorporates features from the 787, is slated to fly in mid-2009. Meanwhile, the 777 Freighter is scheduled for 500 hours of ground testing and 270 hours of flight testing as Boeing seeks to deliver its first orders in the fourth quarter of this year.
Delta Air Lines will start voting today on a contract that would give management more flexibility to complete a merger with Northwest Airlines. The pilots would get pay raises and an equity stake under the contract. Meanwhile, some industry observers say unions could be ousted if the two airlines merge.
With recent oil prices reaching record highs, the airlines' trade group projects the 2008 jet fuel bill will be 44% higher than last year's. Airline executives say that only major capacity cuts and higher fares will allow them to cover the higher cost of jet fuel. If airlines cut service as much as some industry analysts have indicated is necessary, passengers will see fewer daily flights to many cities, more crowded planes and more inconvenience overall. Many warn that higher fares and reduced service could have a devastating ripple effect on local economies. Industry experts say travelers can expect to see big schedule and operational changes as early as this fall.
Boeing on Tuesday started assembly of the first 777 freighter. The plane is scheduled to make its first flight in June. The company is expected to update investors on its 787 program today when it reports fourth-quarter results.