ASIANA AIRLINES OF South Korea has selected the Airbus Industrie A321 rather than the Boeing 737-800 as its next narrow-body passenger aircraft and signed a letter of intent for 18 aircraft.

The agreement, expected to be announced shortly, does not include any options but does give Asiana cancellation rights on six of the aircraft ordered. The A321 is the first non-Boeing jet-airliner ordered by Asiana and represents a major loss for Boeing.

Airbus had been tipped to win the Asiana narrow-body aircraft order for some time. It was determined to beat Boeing in an Asian competition after some recent setbacks in Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan.

Asiana has not yet selected an engine for the A321, but a decision is expected to follow shortly. International Aero Engines and CFM International have submitted their best and final offers on the V2500-A5 and CFM56-5B engines, respectively.

Industry attention now turns to Asiana's forthcoming order for up to 30 new wide-body passenger aircraft. A final decision on the choice of airframe is expected in May, with engine selection following by early July.

Asiana is likely to opt for a mixed purchase of Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 twinjets. Boeing originally submitted pricing on up to 20 777 and a further ten 767-300s. Asiana is now understood to favour the recently launched A330-200 over the 767.

General Electric (with the GE90 and CF6-80), Pratt & Whitney (with the PW4084 and PW4168) and Rolls-Royce (offering the Trent 800 and 700) are competing to power the 777 and A330.

The wide-body deal will also include an order for an undisclosed number of additional 747-400 freighters. Asiana now operates a fleet of 39 aircraft, consisting of eight 747-400s, 11 767-300/ERs and 20 737-300/500s, all of which are powered by GE or CFM engines.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) has signed a contract for its previously announced order for 24 A320s/330s/340s.

Source: Flight International