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Boeing Adds Seats to 737 in Race With Airbus for Low-Cost Orders

July 13 (Bloomberg) -- Boeing Co. is working on a modified narrow-body 737 model that can accommodate more passengers and is aimed at the discount-airline industry that seeks to pack in as many travelers as possible on short-haul flights.

The aircraft, developed at the request of customers, will seat as many as 200 travelers in a single cabin and is based on the 737 Max 8, a redesigned jet set to debut in 2017, Ray Conner, the chief executive officer of Boeing’s commercial airplane unit, said today ahead of the Farnborough International air show.

Boeing and Airbus Group NV are vying to squeeze more people into single-aisle jets, the workhorses of the global fleet, as low-cost carriers continue to gain ground globally. Airbus has previously said it plans to adapt its A320neo to boost capacity.

“When you’re in the low-cost, low-fare business, you’re always striving for that competitive advantage,” John Wojick, Boeing’s chief aircraft salesman, said in an interview.

Boeing will accommodate the higher passenger loads by adding an extra exit door behind the aircraft’s wing. The new model will also squeeze passengers in tighter, with the space between seats decreasing about two inches, Conner said.

The newest 737 Max variant will share the same fuselage as the Max 8, and offer a 6 percent improvement in operating efficiency over the -8, Conner said. Chicago-based Boeing hasn’t determined when the newest 737 model will make its commercial debut, although it will follow that of the 737 Max 8, he said.

Conner doesn’t expect the newest model to cannibalize sales from the 737 Max 9, which is designed to fly longer routes while carrying about 192 people.

The redesigned 737s will boast new engines developed by General Electric Co. and re-designed wings to provide greater fuel savings for airlines.

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