China Airlines to decide on new narrowbody fleet soon

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Taiwan's China Airlines is evaluating its new generation narrowbody options and will make a decision by the middle of 2014.

In a recent interview with Flightglobal Pro, its president Sun HH said the carrier will need between 20-25 new narrowbody aircraft, and the airline is thus evaluating the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 Max.

"Right now, it's neck and neck, both are good aircraft. We're pretty open and not leaning towards one type," says Sun. "We do not want to say that because we're using 737s now, we will stick to the Max. We don't want to limit our options."

He adds that the SkyTeam carrier could make a decision on the narrowbody at the end of the year, or before the middle of 2014.

For the airline's long-haul needs, Sun says it will evaluate the Boeing 777X and A350-1000 around 2018.

He adds that the carrier will have a fleet of 10 777-300ERs, all of which are either leased or on sale and leaseback, as they are only meant as "an interim measure", before it decides on a new generation of widebody aircraft.

China Airlines has 14 A350-900s on order, to be delivered starting 2016. Next year, it expects to take delivery of three 737-800s, one A330-300 and three 777-300ERs.

Sun adds that with the A350s and 777s, the carrier could also start services to more long-haul destinations or up the frequency on existing ones.

"Last couple of years, we've concentrated more on regional routes because we don't have the ideal type of aircraft for long-haul," he expains.

With the delivery of new aircraft, China Airlines will also progressively retire its aging and fuel-hungry A340s and 747s.