Airbus is seeking to counter any potential move by Emirates towards the Boeing 787 with an offer of a competitively priced package of up to 60 A330-300s for delivery before the end of the decade.

Tim Clark, president of the Dubai-based carrier, says that a "whole series of scenarios" are under evaluation for the replacement of its 29 A330-200s as well as its requirements for capacity growth up to the end of the next decade, as part of its strategic growth plan. Central to this evaluation is the A350 XWB and 787, although the 777 and A330 are also in the mix as the airline has a pressing need to replace its A330-200s, some of which have been in service for almost a decade.

Although Clark says that the evaluation "hasn't finished yet" and denies that any acquisitions have been agreed, industry sources say the airline has been offered a deal for up to 60 A330-300s for delivery from 2009.

Clark recently visited Toulouse for a briefing on the A350 XWB, and will be in Seattle in May for a 787 update. He says that while the A350 "has the makings of a fine machine" he is disappointed that it is "so much later than the 787". He says that any bridging deal from Airbus would be tied to a future A350 deal, rather than the ongoing renegotiation of Emirates' cancelled A340-600 order and compensation agreement for A380 delays.

Faced with the onslaught of sales for the 787 and a six-year wait for the start of A350 deliveries in 2013, sources say that Airbus has been offering A330s at extremely competitive prices in an effort to stem the flow of business to its rival. Last year Singapore Airlines agreed to lease 19 new A330-300s through Airbus as bridging aircraft when it placed commitments for up to 40 A350s, and last week AirAsia ordered 10 A330s for its new long-haul operation.

The manufacturer is confident that A330 sales will remain strong, prompting it to boost production of the A330/A340 to nine a month (predominantly A330s) in 2009. It is evaluating a further increase to 10 a month.