Boeing Floats Another 747 Idea

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Boeing has served (tentative) notice that it's not quite ready to surrender the jumbo market to Airbus. The Chicago-based plane-maker is floating the idea of an "advanced" and slightly stretched version of the 34-year-old 747 that would seat 450 passengers on long-haul flights. Airbus's super-sized 380 will seat 550 on two decks and has already attracted 129 firm orders. Boeing has been trying to find interest in a revamped 747 for almost a decade (the last renovation of the design was the 400 series in 1989) without success. The "A" model would potentially make use of currently vacant space for conference rooms and other amenities. But its biggest advantage might be its (relatively) small size. Virgin Atlantic announced this week that it is deferring delivery of its first A380 by 18 months partly because it's afraid that Los Angeles International Airport won't be ready to handle the big plane in the way the airline envisions. Virgin Atlantic wants passenger convenience in boarding to be similar to that of a 747 or A340. The airline said it's also investigating the sorts of amenities (duty-free shops, casinos, etc.) it might be able to stuff in the huge open spaces below decks.