New Zealand carrier expected to conclude widebody evaluation later this year

Air New Zealand (ANZ) is evaluating the Airbus A340-600 and Boeing 777-300ER as potential Boeing 747-400 replacements.

Industry sources say the evaluation is expected to be completed in the third quarter of this year with orders possible before the end of the year. Boeing is understood to be planning to fly one of the 777-300ER development aircraft to ANZ's Auckland base later this year as part of the flight-test programme.

The sources say it is unclear what impact, if any, the carrier's proposed alliance with Qantas Airways will have. Regulatory authorities are expected to issue final rulings on the proposals in June.

ANZ's studies cover the replacement of some or all of its eight 747-400s, four of which are leased from International Lease Finance (ILFC) and four of which it owns. The airline has long been seen as a potential customer for the A340-600 or 777-300ER and the manufacturers initially hoped for orders to replace 747-200s that the carrier phased out between 1998 and early 2001.

No orders for new long-haul aircraft were placed, however, as ANZ fell into severe financial difficulty in 2001, requiring a government bail-out that was completed early last year. It has since placed its first Airbus order with a deal to acquire 15 Airbus A320 family aircraft to replace nine Boeing 737-300s and four Boeing 767-200s.

ANZ declines to comment on the studies and will not confirm when lease terms expire on the four ILFC-owned 747-400s. But according to Airclaims' CASE database, leases are due to end on three of the aircraft in 2009 and on one in 2005.

Qantas says it is talking to Airbus about deferring deliveries of nine Airbus A330s on order due to capacity cuts as a result of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. The airline has so far received three General Electric CF6-80E1-powered A330s. Its remaining nine are due over the next two years. Qantas says Boeing 747-400ER and 737-800 deliveries planned this year will go ahead. If the airline defers A330 deliveries, it says it could retain Boeing 767s which the A330s were to replace.



Source: Flight International