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PARIS/WASHINGTON: Boeing Co's Dreamliner has returned to the world market for newly delivered aircraft at a time when demand for wide-body jetliners is finally stirring to life after a prolonged slump.
The U.S. planemaker delivered its first Dreamliner since May 2021 on Wednesday, in a significant milestone for the manufacturer after production problems with its wide-body jet.
Boeing must now wade through painstaking regulatory checks to get further 787s delivered while chipping away at a backlog of about 120 stored planes outside its plants.
But analysts say there is increasingly talk of demand for such jets after years of a market glut.
From East Asia to the Gulf, several airlines are renewing wide-body fleets.
Saudi Arabia is discussing a potentially significant order for wide-body jets, three industry sources said, though talks have fluctuated over several years without a deal being announced and the timing of a decision may be some way off.
But with Riyadh investing in tourism and aviation as part of its Vision 2030 blueprint to diversify the economy, one person following the matter predicted a decision "sooner rather than later," with Boeing 787 and 777X seen potentially among the mix.
Taiwan's government-backed China Airlines 2610.TW is weighing options to renew a fleet of 22 Airbus A330 jets in a competition between the 787 and Airbus A330neo.,
Malaysia Airlines is poised to announce on Monday a deal to acquire 20 A330neo wide-body jets, roughly half of which would be bought directly from Airbus AIR.PA.
"I firmly believe that as borders fully reopen, we will see the same rebound in international travel that we saw in the domestic markets," Aengus Kelly, chief executive of AerCap AER.N, the world's largest leasing firm, said on Thursday.
"Given the level of inquiry and demand we are seeing for wide-body aircraft, it is clear that the airlines are also convinced of this."
International traffic has accelerated since the start of the year, though the International Air Transport Association says it has a long way to run before regaining pre-pandemic levels.
"What we're seeing right now is definitely a recovery that's taking hold in certain international markets," Ihssane Mounir, Boeing's senior vice-president of commercial sales and marketing, said after last month's Farnborough Airshow.
"The transatlantic is live and doing well," Mounir told reporters. "You're seeing very robust demand between Europe and the U.S. and... between the Middle East and Europe and U.S. So folks are sticking their heads above water again and... making plans."
Part of the surge of interest stems from delays caused by manufacturers themselves as well as increased regulatory scrutiny following the recent Boeing 737 MAX safety crisis.