International business fueling Boeing Dreamliner demand

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A global trend is leading to more business for Boeing's North Charleston plant.

While US airlines were the company's biggest customers for years, they're now only a small part of its sales.

The line of planes sitting by its delivery center include two Air India planes along with planes for Air India and Hainan Airlines. Look behind its doors and you'll find planes for Kenya Airways, Scoot, a low-cost Singapore-based airline, and many others.

"If you were to look back 10 years, our proportion was much higher domestic and North American overall," incoming Boeing SC GM and VP Beverly Wyse said.

Times have changed.

"The three largest Dreamliner purchases are 80 planes for Japanese airline All Nippon Airways, 76 for Dutch company AerCap, and 71 for United Arab Emirates-based Etihad Airways. In all, 87 percent of Dreamliners are for non-US companies compared to 70 percent for Boeing as a whole.

"You can imagine how important those international guys are to us and we pay a lot of attention to them," Retiring GM and VP Jack Jones said. "It certainly shapes our thinking on the design of the airplane and the support of that airplane."

The Dreamliner and North Charleston plant have benefited more than Boeing's other planes. In its future outlook plan, the company says the demand is because more people in Asia can afford to fly and how far the planes can go and that demand is only going up.

"An increasing amount actually," Wyse said. "The international business, the emerging market in particular, China specifically, is the largest portion of that growth."

Even though there are no expansion plans once Boeing finishes gearing up for its 787-10 model, Wyse says no matter who buys the Dreamliners or where they fly to, they'll still be built right here in South Carolina.

"When we make an investment like this it just demonstrates that we're in here for the long run," Wyse said.

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