British Airways is to re-open discussions with manufacturers over its proposed acquisition of a fleet of regional jets, after most unions representing staff at its regional operation backed plans aimed at cutting annual costs by £27 million ($44 million).

Aircraft to be evaluated are thought to include the Aero International (Regional) Avro RJ85 and RJ100, Airbus A319, Boeing 737-600 and McDonnell Douglas MD-95. A decision is expected in the middle of the year.

BA's regional-jet plans were announced in January 1996, but the tender process was shelved in May after the airline had said that it would have to finish restructuring its regional operations before the $1 billion aircraft purchase could go ahead (Flight International, 1 - 7 May, 1996).This time, the carrier is looking for a single aircraft type to replace 18 Boeing 737-200s and ten British Aerospace ATPs, which are flown on regional routes from Manchester and Birmingham in the UK.

The 737-200s do not meet Chapter 3 noise limits, and will not be allowed to be operated in Europe beyond 2002. Their operators are already subject to heavy fines when operating the type on routes to Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. BA says that while the 737-200s are being disposed of, it has not ruled out hushkitting to boost resale value.

Source: Flight International