Qantas says Boeing 787 delays to have no impact

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SYDNEY, Oct 11 (Reuters) Australia's Qantas Airways Ltd said on Thursday a delay in delivery dates for Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner aircraft would not materially impact its operations, but did not rule out seeking compensation.

Qantas, one of the world's largest buyers of the new plane, said Boeing had assured it that the first of the 15 aircraft scheduled for delivery from August 2008 would still arrive within six months of the original delivery date.

''Boeing said the August 2008 aircraft would slip, but not by six months. Once that aircraft arrives, the remaining 14 aircraft deliveries will be staggered until December 2009,'' Qantas Chief Executive Geoff Dixon said in a statement.

Qantas has firm orders for 65 Dreamliners, with options for 20 more and purchase rights for a further 30, as the airline and its low-cost subsidiary Jetstar seek to expand on routes in the Asia-Pacific region.

Boeing on Wednesday pushed back first deliveries of its 787 by at least six months to late November or December 2008 as it struggles to assemble the new lightweight, carbon-composite plane.

The delay is an embarrassing setback for Boeing, which has for months insisted it would meet its delivery timetable despite production problems, and mirrors delays suffered by rival Airbus on its A380 superjumbo.

As recently as last Monday, Boeing's Commercial Airplanes Vice President, Randy Tinseth, said on a visit to Sydney that the timetable was still achievable.

The first 15 planes are scheduled to be used on Jetstar's fast-growing international operations.

Dixon said contingency plans were in place for capacity shortages and it would consider measures such as delaying the retirement of aircraft.

''Compensation issues will be the subject of commercial negotiations between the Qantas and Boeing companies,'' Dixon said.

Qantas, which in August tipped current year pre-tax earnings to rise 30 percent, said it was not changing its earnings guidance.

Qantas shares were 0.3 percent weaker at A.93 at 0049 GMT.

Reuters DKS VP0700

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