Manufacturer says airline's selection process was skewed in Boeing's favour as order is placed with US rival

Airbus has complained about the evaluation process Air India undertook when it chose Boeing for its planned long-haul aircraft order and alleges the process was skewed in favour of its US rival.

Air India's board decided last week to seek government approval for the purchase of up 50 Boeing widebody aircraft. The state-owned carrier says the deal will comprise 35 firm orders and options for a further 15 aircraft.

The firm portion of the deal is expected to comprise five 777-200LRs, 10 777-300ERs and 20 787-8s, while the 15 options are expected to be for three 777-200LRs, five 777-300ERs and seven 787-8s.

Air India's board is hoping the Indian government will grant approval mid-year, which means the airline could place its order in time to receive the first aircraft from the end of 2006.

Some of the 777s will arrive before the 787s because the first deliveries of the latter do not begin until 2008.

Airbus says the 787 won out even though Air India's tender specified aircraft must be ready for delivery from 2006-7. Airbus's A350, which is a development of the A330 that is designed to compete with the 787, was not considered.

Airbus says the fact that the A350 is only available from 2010 may have been an issue, but asks rhetorically: "Why is one aircraft [the 787] allowed in but the A350 is kept out?"

The European manufacturer also claims that Air India considered the 787 in a nine-seat-abreast configuration, whereas the A330 and A340 proposal was for eight-abreast seating, which was "not comparing apples with apples". It adds that letting Boeing configure with nine seats abreast "skews the results" and made it easier for Boeing to show better economics.

"We don't want to get into an argument with Airbus," says Air India, adding that both manufacturers failed to comply with one or more of the airline's criteria. It declines to comment further.

Air India has for years considered ordering new aircraft, but has repeatedly deferred decisions. Late last year it issued a tender for up to 50 aircraft and disclosed it was considering the ultra-long-range A340-500 and 777-200LR, the larger A340-600 and 777-300ER, and the A330-200 and Boeing 787. This superseded a 2003 plan to order 10 A340-300s.


Source: Flight International