JAL to consider Airbus aircraft for 777 replacement

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Japan Airlines, which operates only Boeing widebody aircraft, will consider Airbus aircraft as a viable option to replace its older Boeing 777s.

The airline has 26 777-200s and 14 of those have been in service for at least 14 years, according to Flightglobal's Ascend database. It also has seven 777-300s in service for more than 10 years, and 13 relatively newer 777-300ERs.

JAL's Boeing 767s are being replaced with Boeing 787s, and its chairman Masaru Onishi says that the airline's "main interest now" is to look at replacements for the older 777s that will begin to be retired from 2016.

Options include more 777-300ERs, its proposed successor that has been dubbed the 777-X, and new generation aircraft such as the proposed 787-10 and the Airbus A350, Onishi says in an interview with Flightglobal publication Airline Business.

"Our main interest now is to look for what kind of aircraft will replace the 777. We have plenty of time to study the options. And we will seriously study all of the options available to us," says Onishi.

"In my mind, we will begin to retire the 777 three years from now, and that is the time we have to introduce new types of aircraft."

Onishi adds that the decision to consider Airbus aircraft does not mean that the airline has any issues with Boeing, which is under pressure after the global 787 fleet was grounded in January as a result of problems with the type's lithium-ion batteries.

JAL has seven 787s, and some in Japan have suggested that the airline is over-dependent on the airframer for its fleet.

The airline simply wants to study all of the options that are available before it makes this decision, says Onishi.

JAL, which was once one of the largest operators of Boeing 747-400s but retired all of them during its corporate rehabilitation, is not interested in new four-engined aircraft like the 747-8 or Airbus A380.

"Frankly speaking, we are not interested in the 747 or the A380 at the moment given the current market situation. If the market were to change dramatically, then I would like to take a look at them and into consideration. But for now, no," says Onishi.

Onishi says twin-engined aircraft are "far more efficient" than four-engined types.

You can read more Airline Business cover interviews here.