UK carrier provides charter input to advisory group for Boeing's new offering

Britannia Airways is evaluating the Boeing 7E7 as a potential replacement for its Boeing 767 fleet and is prepared to wait for the aircraft to become available if it meets its needs.

The UK charter carrier is part of the TUI airline group that also includes Corsair, Hapag-Lloyd, TUI Airlines Belgium, and Scandinavian sister Britannia AB, as well as low-cost carriers Hapag Lloyd Express and Thomsonfly. The group has a combined fleet of over 100 aircraft and has been involved in a long-running evaluation of its future needs with a view to placing a large contract with Airbus or Boeing for replacements.

A deal had been expected last year, but plans were put on ice when the deals offered did not meet the group's expectations. "We had been in intense dialogue with the suppliers last year," says TUI Airline Management chairman and Britannia UK managing director Kevin Hatton.

"We had a target in mind with the view that if we didn't get that then we'd put the deal off, which is what we did," he adds.

He says that talks continue with the suppliers, but the timing and selection will depend on the offerings. The airline is evaluating replacements for its four 274-seat 767-200ERs and nine 328-seat -300ERs, and is "in the 7E7 airline advisory group providing input on the specific needs of a charter carrier, as our business is very different to that of a three-class airline", says Hatton.

He adds that the Airbus A330 is a "very good aircraft" and is also a potential 767 replacement. Although the Airbus twinjet has earlier availability, Britannia "could wait" for the 7E7. The baseline 7E7-8 is due to enter service in 2008, while the stretched -9 will follow two years later.

Hatton says that in a high-density, inclusive-tour configuration, the 7E7 could seat up to 350 passengers. This count is thought to refer to the stretched version, which carries 250 passengers in a three-class layout and is similar in size to the A330-200.

Boeing says several non-scheduled carriers are involved its 50-strong airline advisory group and it is holding its latest regional" programme summit" meeting in Rome, Italy, having recently held an earlier meeting in Beijing, China.



Source: Flight International