Asiana Airlines is scrapping its plans to purchase Airbus A330s and is cutting back drastically on an Airbus A321 order. Overall, the number of cancelled aircraft orders and deferred deliveries in Asia continues to grow, with Singapore Aircraft Leasing Enterprise (SALE) rescheduling Boeing 777-200 deliveries and Thai Airways International wanting to follow suit.

The situation at Asiana appears to be particularly critical, with staff going unpaid and some analysts suggesting that the South Korean carrier is in danger of insolvency. Speculation is now focusing on a possible merger with arch rival Korean Air, or even the possibility of a rescue by a foreign investor.

The airline has given notice that it intends cancelling an order for 18 Pratt & Whitney PW4000-powered A330-200/300s, the first six of which were given Government approval in September. It is also scaling back plans for the 18 A321s on order, the first of which is due for delivery in February. Asiana is understood to want to take five aircraft only between 1998 and 2002.

The collapse of a bank-financing package has left Asiana with the more-immediate problem of finding money for those aircraft already completed. Sitting on the ramp in Seattle is a Boeing 747-400 Combi and a 767-300, while Airbus is having to step in to assist with the first A321 delivery in February. The airline is also believed to be seeking to return some of its Boeing 737-400s to lessors, which include GE Capital Aviation Services, and International Lease Finance.

Recent moves by the airline to offload its 777-200 production positions has met with a response from international carriers, including Ansett, Delta Air Lines and, it is believed, United Airlines. Asiana is not alone in looking for buyers for its unwanted 777s.

Malaysia Airlines has five 777s on offer and is in contact with carriers, including American Airlines and British Airways, as well as Delta. The availability of discounted surplus 777s on the market is undermining efforts to place leased aircraft. SALE has therefore pushed back the delivery of its first 777s until November 1999 and of two more 777s until 2002.

Thai's announcement that it also wants to defer deliveries is only likely to make matters worse. The carrier has 11 aircraft on order in 1998, consisting of its first two 777-300s, a 747-400, five Airbus A300-600Rs and three A330-300s.

Source: Flight International