Etihad buys 12 more Boeing jets in $2.8B deal

By ADAM SCHRECK | December 12, 2011 | 2:30 AM EST

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Fast-growing Gulf carrier Etihad Airways said Monday it is buying 10 more of Boeing's new 787-9 planes, making it the largest airline customer for that version of the much-hyped carbon fiber jet.

Etihad also signed up for two Boeing 777 cargo planes as part of the deal. It and Chicago-based Boeing Co. said the order is worth a combined $2.8 billion at list prices, though customers typically negotiate discounts.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad now has orders for 41 787s, along with options for 25 more. The companies said it is the top airline customer for the 787-9 version of the plane.

Boeing has heavily marketed the 787, which it calls the Dreamliner, as more comfortable for passengers and 20 percent more fuel-efficient than similar aircraft. The plane is made of ultra-lightweight materials and initially comes in two models — the 787-8 and the longer 787-9.

Japan's All Nippon Airways operated the first commercial 787 flight in late October. The plane's introduction was delayed for several years due to a series of manufacturing snags.

Etihad CEO James Hogan said Monday's order reflects the Abu Dhabi-based carrier's "confidence in the 787's ability to have a significant impact on our operating efficiencies and the passenger experience we can offer onboard."

The airline expects to receive its first 787 in late 2014 and get its last one by 2019.

Etihad is bankrolled by the oil-rich government of Abu Dhabi, the capital and largest of the United Arab Emirates. It has not yet posted a profit, but expects to break even for the first time this year.

Along with Dubai's Emirates and Qatar Airways, it is increasingly challenging more established airlines on long-haul international routes that use the Gulf as a transit hub.