British Midland (BM) is widening its evaluation of 100-seat aircraft to replace its Fokker 70/100 and warns that, with the increasing number of new types becoming available, Boeing will have to make a "very attractive offer" to win the UK carrier's order for its 717 twinjet.

The airline has been considering the 717 and the Airbus A318, but is broadening its search, as "many manufacturers are offering 70- to 90-seaters," according to chairman Sir Michael Bishop. BM spent "a lot of time" evaluating the 100-seat 717-200 on its recent European sales tour.

"We have to consider how the 717 would fit into our fleet," says Bishop. "We really want it to be a family product," he adds, referring to Boeing's view that there is not a market for the smaller 80-seat 717-100, which BM favours.

Bishop says the Fokker 70/100 replacement is not "a pressing need" as the type can "operate for years to come". The airline may be wary, however, that any large-scale disposals by other key Fokker 100 operators could have a major impact on the type's values and remarketability, which would favour an early retirement of its nine aircraft.

Meanwhile, BM says it will not decide on the type for its planned transatlantic services until there is progress towards a new US/UK air services deal. The airline has options on two Boeing 767-300ERs and two Airbus A330-200s, for delivery next year. BM would need six aircraft phased in for its transatlantic requirements, says Bishop.

The airline has embarked on "a high profile campaign" to push for liberalisation of the transatlantic market. This move follows the latest collapse in talks between the UK and US Governments to negotiate a new air services treaty (Flight International, 7-13 July).

Source: Flight International