Marco Massela/ROMEJulian Moxon/PARIS
Alitalia is negotiating with Airbus Industrie for the conversion of its 23 outstanding A321 orders to include some smaller A320s, which would be the Italian carrier's first order for the 150-seat member of the Airbus narrowbodied family. The airline is also examining its longer-term strategy for its long-haul fleet.
Sources within the airline say that negotiations on the new deal should be completed this month. So far, Alitalia has received 17 of the 40 A321s originally ordered in 1989, all of which have gone to its low-cost operation, Alitalia Team.
The deal under negotiation would involve 19 of the outstanding orders delivered as A320s, with the remaining five delivered as A321s. The airline will also place an extra order for one A320 to leave the cash value of the original order unchanged.
The carrier is also studying a re-organisation of its long-haul ßeet, with the aim of cutting the number of types down to two. It operates eight Boeing 747-200s, eight Boeing MD-11s and six leased Boeing 767-300ERs. Chief executive Domenico Cempella says that the airline will "look seriously" at deciding in 1998 between potential Airbus and Boeing offerings.
Airline sources suggest that the Airbus A340-600 and Boeing 777-300 are likely front-runners to form the core of the new long-haul ßeet, but any deal will Ìrst have to win favour with the pilots' unions, with deliveries due to commence at the end of the decade.
Cempella says that a decision on any new orders will depend on the outcome of talks now taking place with alliance partners and the group's ability to Ìnd the cash.
Alitalia is also constrained by the conditions laid down by the European Commission in return for approval of Alitalia's state-aid injection, which expires in 2000. The carrier cannot increase capacity over the next three years as restructuring takes place, although it could sell older aircraft.
Source: Flight International