China’s President Hu Jintao came to Washington bearing gifts—solidified orders for 200 Boeing 737s and 777s.
Hu was thought likely bring an order of new Boeing jets as a gift for Obama when the two leaders began their summit Wednesday, Jan. 19, in Washington. Historically, Chinese leaders have chosen to combine the occasion of a state visit with the drama of announcing an aircraft order.
But Boeing was not sure how big an order to expect. Since 2007, Chinese carriers have placed a series of Boeing 737 and 777 orders that were not immediately revealed, instead appearing under the name “unidentified customer” on Boeing’s order tally. As the summit approached, it was not clear to Boeing how many of those orders would be made official.
Wednesday morning, the Chinese leader revealed his country’s plans to purchase 185 Boeing 737 and 15 777s with a combined list-price value of $19 billion. Boeing says all are firm orders.
Cumulatively, the order is by far the largest ever announced at one time by Chinese carriers, topping the 60 Boeing 787s ordered in January 2005. Delivery periods for the 737s and 777s will run from 2011 to 2013, a rapid pace of acceptance by Chinese carriers that underscores how much emphasis the country’s aviation authorities are placing on matching airline growth with capacity. Boeing estimates that in the next 20 years, China will need 4,330 new aircraft worth more than $480 billion and that the nation will be the company’s largest customer.
But in the past, Beijing has forced its airlines to delay delivery rates because China’s airport modernization and pilot training could not keep pace with demand.
Boeing said the agreement “positively impacts more than 100,000 jobs, including those at Boeing and its thousands of suppliers throughout the U.S.,” giving Chinese and U.S. officials the kind of accolade they are looking for in the Hu-Obama talks.