Airbus COO: Boeing's 787 Dreamliner may face delays

Airbus SAS chief operating officer, John Leahy dropped a very loud hint early on this week, when he told reporters that he had heard rumours from industry suppliers that Boeing's 787 Dreamliner might be delayed by up to six months. He wished archrival Boeing well at the same time, however, saying he hoped that unlike his company they would get the plane out in time.

The Dreamliner, meanwhile, headed towards the magical 500 mark this week, in terms of confirmed orders, putting it on the path to becoming the aviation industry's most successful wide-body aircraft launch ever.

"In this particular case, misery doesn't love company," Leahy said, referring to Airbus' own troubles. According to the Seattle Times, Leahy went on to say, "We wish [Boeing] well, to get an airplane out the door on time."

Airbus' 787-challenger, the A350XWB, is already undergoing a costly redesign, and is not scheduled to enter service until 2013 at the earliest. Coupled with the troubles that it is already facing over the development of the super jumboA380, parent company EADS has now been forced to announce 10,000 job cuts, as well as putting six plants on the auction block.

"Despite our extensive experience in delaying aircraft programs, we don't have any particular inside knowledge" about the 787 program, Leahy told reporters in a facetious vein at this week's International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading. "But if you talk with suppliers, most people are talking about up to a six-month delay as a possibility."

Boeing, however, reaffirmed last week that despite production snags encountered by various suppliers, the 787 programme remained on schedule and that the aircraft would roll out on time.

As of now, Airbus has just one customer, Finnair, for its A350. Leahy told reporters that he expects nearly all the A350's original customers to come back though, noting that Airbus had set aside money to offset the price difference between the old and new planes, which would ensure that airlines would receive the A350XWB at their lower original prices.

If the customers should come back, Airbus would then have about 100 orders for the A350 XWB, while Boeing's Dreamliner has already hit the 475 mark this week.