Andrzej Jeziorski and Andrew Doyle/SINGAPORE

Air New Zealand (ANZ)is negotiating with Singapore Airlines (SIA) to place four surplus SIA Airbus A340-300s with its Australian subsidiary Ansett International.

The talks come as the Singaporean carrier continues to ponder the future of its A340-300s, which Boeing has offered to buy as part of an earlier 777 sale.

SIA, meanwhile, has placed orders and options for an additional 20 Boeing 777-200s to replace its A310s on short- and medium-haul routes, after rejecting proposals from Airbus and Boeing for reduced capacity versions of the A330 and 777, respectively.

If a deal can be reached, Ansett would lease the A340s to launch direct services to the USA earlier than previously planned and expand capacity on other Asian routes, according to industry sources. The Australian carrier, wholly owned by ANZ, has previously said it may not necessarily enter the US market via the heavily serviced Los Angeles gateway, and the range capability of the A340 would allow it to serve fellow Star Alliance member United's hubs at San Francisco or Denver.


SIA, which operates 15 A340-300s and has another two on order, owns 25% of Air New Zealand. Both carriers decline to comment.

According to industry sources, SIA continues to evaluate whether to sell the A340s to Boeing as they are removed from its fleet, or retain control of some or all aircraft.

The first three aircraft are being leased to Cathay Pacific in a deal arranged by Boeing.

Potential takers for the remaining aircraft are understood to include Iberia and Canada 3000, while the sources say SIA is also considering retaining up to six A340-300s in its own fleet. Separately, SIA is to receive the first of five ultra long-range A340-500s on firm order in late 2002.

SIA's selection of the 777 for its "W aircraft" requirement lifts its commitments for the type to 81, of which 18 are in service, all powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 800s. The latest batch, comprising 10 firm orders and 10 options, will be delivered between 2003 and 2009.

SIA deputy chairman and chief executive Cheong Choong Kong says that, although the 777 is "not a direct replacement in terms of size" for the A310, it gives the airline the flexibility to use the aircraft on both short- and long-haul routes and achieve spares and maintenance cost savings as a large number of the type are already in the fleet.

Source: Flight International