SriLankan to decide on A340 replacement in mid-2013

Kuala Lumpur
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SriLankan has completed "60% of the work" needed to assess the potential replacements for its fleet of seven Airbus A340-300 aircraft, and could make a decision around mid-2013.

The airline is assessing the Airbus A330 and the Boeing 777-300ER for the requirement to replace SriLankan's long-haul aircraft, which are too expensive to operate in a high-fuel price environment.

A decision will be made in a few months as the airline hopes to begin retiring its A340s from 2014, chief executive Kapila Chandrasena said on the sidelines of a ceremony to mark Malaysia Airlines' entry into the alliance.

Industry sources say that the airline is leaning towards the A330 because of its familiarity with the type - the airline operates seven A330s. Introducing a new type of aircraft into the fleet will also add unnecessary complication to operations and potentially increase costs.

But Chandrasena says that the airline is determined to be fair to both airframers and will make a decision based on what will be the best option for the airline. "We want an aircraft that will make the most sense for us," he adds.

Further down the line, however, the airline hopes to have an entirely "new generation of aircraft" by 2023. It is likely to begin assessing both the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350 in 2014 for its widebody requirements, says Chandrasena. A competition to find a "next generation" replacement for its eight Airbus A320s will eventually be needed as well, he adds.