Max Kingsley-Jones/LONDON

British Airways is preparing to issue a tender to Airbus and Boeing early in the new year for up to 160 narrow- and widebodied aircraft as it gears up for its long-term fleet-renewal programme.

The airline is understood to be finalising an outline of its requirements for aircraft seating from 120 passengers to over 200, which will be provided to the manufacturers in January. It is not known whether the airline's tender request will be based solely on its own requirements, or whether it will include aircraft for its various subsidiaries and affiliates, such as Air Liberté/TAT, Deutsche BA and Qantas. BA officially declines to comment on the matter.

In early 1996, BA issued a request for tenders from regional manufacturers for a planned $1 billion order for 60 aircraft. It later postponed the requirement, however, and is now looking to its franchise partners to operate its regional aircraft (ie, below 100 seats).

BA's long-term fleet plans will see its smallest aircraft being about the size of a Boeing 737-300/700 or A319 (ie a 120-seater).

Most of BA's 260-strong fleet are Boeing types, although it also has a fleet of ten Airbus A320s and seven McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30s inherited through its take-over of British Caledonian. The short-haul fleet includes 65 Boeing 737s (31 -200s and 34 -400s), and 48 757s, while 25 767-300ERs are operated on short- and medium-haul services.

BA's long-haul fleet includes 70 747s (31 -100/200 "Classics" and 39 -400s), 14 Boeing 777-200s, along with seven Aerospatiale/BAC Concordes.

It holds orders for 42 aircraft, mostly 747-400s (27) and 777-200IGWs (nine), as well as three 757s and three 767-300ERs.

During December, BA will begin replacing some of its 737-200s, which are operated by its Manchester- and Birmingham-based "BA Regional" division, with the first of seven new 737-300s on lease. The 737-300 lease deal is an interim move while BA finalises its long-term fleet strategy.

The entire 737-200 fleet is on operating lease, with leases due to expire over the next couple of years. BA is also touting for used 737-300s for its new Stansted low-fare airline.

Source: Flight International