Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is being offered an attractive financial package deal by Airbus Industrie to roll over its narrowbody fleet and replace it with new A320 family aircraft. The move comes as Airbus seeks to bolster an earlier A340-500/600 proposal and undermine support for the yet-to-be launched Boeing 777X.

According to industry sources, Airbus is stepping up efforts to sway MAS away from its traditional supplier Boeing "by throwing a lot money at the deal to win over the carrier". This is understood to include a proposal to replace its fleet of around 40 Boeing 737-400/500s with new A319/A320/ A321 aircraft.

The offer is tied to MAS' on-going study of the A340-500/600 growth derivatives as an alternative to the Boeing 777-200X and -300X. The carrier already operates 11 Rolls-Royce Trent 800-powered 777-200/300s and has been a strong proponent of the proposed -300X growth version as a potential 747 replacement and the ultra-long-haul -200X to open non-stop services to the USA.

MAS has been frustrated by Boeing's continued delay in launching the 777X and recent decision to select the General Electric GE90 engine as a sole- source powerplant. Boeing and GE in turn have been engaged in a "hearts and minds" campaign to shore up Malaysian support for the aircraft and are believed to be trying to counter the A320 offer with a similar financing proposal for 737s.

Potentially also at stake are negotiations between FlightSafety Boeing and MAS to establish a joint venture training centre, which is thought to be close to being concluded. Another major issue for MAS is the write down of its relatively young fleet of 737s, with the last -400 having only been delivered in November 1995.

MAS, after a period of contraction, is once again looking to bolster its narrowbody fleet to increase regional frequencies and bridge the gap in capacity between the 737 and larger 256-seat Airbus A330-300.

The future of the latter widebody jet has been the source of speculation for a number of years and the latest MAS consideration is to retain the A330 and update it with a 777-type interior.

Source: Flight International