Singapore Airlines expected to chose between Airbus A350s and Boeing 787s for widebody re-fleet within weeks

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Singapore flag carrier expected to make decision late this month in contest to supply new-generation aircraft

Singapore Airlines (SIA) is approaching the final stages of a long-running competition for the supply of new-generation widebodies, including Airbus A350s or Boeing 787s.

sia changi a380 takeoff w445
© AIRBUS

SIA is evaluating whether to buy more Airbus A380s (pictured above), or the Boeing 747-8

SIA has been considering orders for dozens of new aircraft since the middle of last year, when it issued requests for proposals to Airbus and Boeing. It originally expected to finalise deals around the end of 2005 or the beginning of 2006, but at the end of December said publicly that an announcement of an order was “not imminent”.

Industry sources say an order was then expected just after Asian Aerospace, which ended on 26 February, but that the contest is now likely to run until at least late this month.

The sources say SIA is continuing to assess the A350 and 787 with a view to placing a large order for aircraft to be used on services within Asia as well as “thin” medium- and long-haul routes.

SIA has also been assessing the ultra-long-range Boeing 777-200LR as a replacement for its five Airbus A340-500s, and is considering more orders for the ultra-large Airbus A380 or the recently launched Boeing 747-8. SIA already has A380s on order and is due to be the first operator of the new type before the end of the year.

The sources say SIA is continuing to explore “interim lift” possibilities with the two manufacturers to meet capacity requirements ahead of the first delivery of new twinjets. This is thought to be one of the reasons for the order delay. The 787 is due to enter service with launch customer All Nippon Airways in 2008, but there are not thought to be many early delivery slots left for SIA. The A350 is not due to enter service until 2011.

The airline confirms that orders are “still a little way off” although it will not be drawn on when they may come. Chief executive Chew Choon Seng said recently that one issue relates to delivery schedules, while another has to do with operating economics, although he did not elaborate.

NICHOLAS IONIDES / SINGAPORE