Emma Kelly / Perth & Air Transport Intelligence reporters

Boeing receives further blow as ACA picks Airbus type and selection by Qantas looks likely

The Airbus A320 family looks to have made more inroads in the low-cost sector, following the selection of the type by US carrier Atlantic Coast Airlines (ACA) and its likely selection by Qantas for its new low-fare subsidiary.

United Airlines and Delta Air Lines feeder airline ACA last week ordered 10 A319s, five A320s and leased 10 A319s for its Washington Dulles-based low-cost start-up Independence Air, for delivery from September. ACA is to terminate its feeder arrangement with United, retire its BAe J41s and move its Bombardier CRJs to Independence Air.

The Airbus deal is far from certain, however, as ACA is the subject of a hostile takeover bid by Phoenix, Arizona-based feeder rival Mesa Air Group, and last month announced it would shelve ACA's budget carrier plan if its bid is successful.

Meanwhile, Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon says a management recommendation was put to the airline's board last week regarding the preferred type for its new low-cost operation. Airbus is again believed to have emerged ahead of rival Boeing, based on a favourable deal, the availability of ex-Ansett Airlines A320 crew and the wish to distinguish the lost operator from mainline domestic operations. Air New Zealand Engineering Services is expected to conduct maintenance on the low-cost carrier's aircraft.

Dixon previously said that the new airline will operate a minimum of 23 aircraft by mid-2005, serving domestic Australian leisure routes.

The double Airbus victory is a further blow to Boeing as the low-cost sector was in the past considered a natural market for the 737, which until a recent surge by the A320, had been the dominant aircraft in the segment.

Source: Flight International