Renationalised carrier set to unveil new short-haul strategy, including multi-aircraft buy

Airbus and Boeing are preparing to go to battle in a narrowbody aircraft competition to be launched shortly by Air New Zealand (ANZ).

Industry sources say ANZ has indicated it will issue a request for proposals (RFP) for 15-40 Airbus A320 family or Boeing 737-700/800s. The move will be part of the carrier's new short-haul strategy, which is being finalised.

The sources say ANZ, renationalised in January after coming close to collapse, wants to replace its 18 737-300s, including four operated by subsidiary Freedom Air International, 13 of which are leased. It will also consider using narrowbodies to replace its four ageing Boeing 767-200ER widebodies, which are all on operating lease.

ANZ will not comment on fleet plans, saying if an RFP is issued to Airbus and Boeing it will be made public as it is "market sensitive".

"We're going through our short-haul strategy at the moment and that has yet to be released," the carrier says. It adds that any aircraft order plans would be part of the strategic programme, which is likely to be made public after a board meeting later this month.

The anticipated competition at ANZ will be hard fought by Airbus and Boeing. The European manufacturer is desperate to get its aircraft into the carrier, which only operates Boeing aircraft on mainline services. Boeing will in turn be fighting to maintain its status as ANZ's sole supplier of jet aircraft.

ANZ has been in financial difficulty for some time. In September it was forced to write down its investment in loss-making Australian subsidiary Ansett, which subsequently collapsed.

After key shareholders Brierley Investments and Singapore Airlines refused to inject more cash, the New Zealand government stepped in with a NZ$885 million ($406 million) rescue package.

ANZ has since been working on its overhaul aimed at trimming costs and restoring profits within a few years. ANZ has been coy on its plans so far, with chairman John Palmer saying early this month that "premature signalling of our intentions could prejudice the prospects of success by allowing competitors to initiate counter-strategies".

Source: Flight International