Asiana Airlines of South Korea has been told by the country's Government that it will not approve the planned purchase of 58 new widebody aircraft until it has obtained industrial offsets from Airbus Industrie and Boeing.

The carrier has already completed negotiations for the aircraft and been given informal stamps of approval from the ministries of finance and trade. The final formal-approval stage is normally considered a formality, but Asiana has been waiting for a green light since late 1996.

Asiana's planned purchase consists of 18 Airbus A330-200/300s plus ten options, 15 Boeing 777-200/300s with five options, three 747-400s and three options, and two 767-300s and two options.

It is understood that the trade, industry and energy ministry has since stipulated that all commercial-aviation contracts must include a 20% offset provision, while military purchases are to conform to 30% requirement. Unlike rival Korean Air, Asiana does not possess its own aerospace manufacturing division and so did not ask for any industrial concessions from either manufacturer.

Asiana's parent company, the Kumho Group, has an informal alliance with Daewoo Heavy Industries, however, as the result of family connections. Officials from the airline, Daewoo and the ministry have already visited Airbus and plan to visit Boeing soon.

Industry sources have sought to play down the problem and are confident that the issue of offsets can be resolved. With the first 777 scheduled for delivery in 1998 and the two A330s in 1999, the airline, Airbus and Boeing are keen to complete the deal to secure production slots.

Source: Flight International