A330/A350 still in contention despite interim deal for eight 777-200ERs, as final decision looms in the second half of 2007

British Airways is poised to begin "the serious discussions" with Airbus and Boeing about its widebody fleet renewal following last week's top-up order for up to eight Boeing 777-200ERs, which should see the airline finalise the much-anticipated selections in the second half of this year.
Speaking to Flight International, BA commercial director Robert Boyle said the decision to order eight 777s for delivery from 2009 rather than Airbus A330s for its short-term requirement has no bearing on its longer-term needs. "The ease of assimilating up to eight aircraft into our existing 777 fleet swung it in Boeing's favour," he says.

For its long-term requirement, BA is evaluating all variants of the A350 XWB against all variants of the 787 "including the -10", as well as the 777-300ER, while the A380 is being pitched against the 747-8I. "We've had the responses to our RFP from the manufacturers, which will be iterated several times. We're now getting to the serious bit of the discussions," says Boyle. He expects the selections to be finalised in the second half of this year.

Boyle is pleased that Airbus has redesigned the A350 as it now "has a much better fit with BA's fleet needs", but because of the relatively recent decision to revamp the twinjet, the airline "is only just getting the final specification through for the aircraft from Airbus". He adds that its later availability (entry into service is scheduled for 2013) means that the airline may still acquire A330s as interim aircraft if the decision goes with Airbus. "Ideally we'd like [the A350] a little bit earlier. We have some flexibility with the retirement schedule of our 767s, but we'd be more likely to go with an interim A330 solution."

Boyle says that while the manufacturers are likely to make their "best offers" based around "one-stop shop" deals encompassing the airline's entire long-haul requirement for both widebody twins and ultra-large aircraft, BA could decide to divide the deal between the two suppliers.

 BA 777
© Max Kingsley-Jones/Flight International
 BA's 777 top-up order does not affect the selection for its long term needs


Source: Flight International