Max Kingsley-Jones/LONDON

British Midland (BM) will this week outline plans to acquire a fleet of long-haul aircraft, as well as new deals for additional short-haul aircraft.

In February, the UK airline unveiled plans for transatlantic services from London Heathrow in anticipation of a UK/US "open skies" accord, and has been examining offers from Airbus Industrie and Boeing for new aircraft. Destinations filed in the application included New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles and Chicago.

BM has begun introducing its Airbus A320 family aircraft, preferred to additional Boeing 737s for its short-haul operations. Having lost the short-haul competition, Boeing has been aggressively marketing its long-range twinjets to BM, and offered a deal for up to five 767-300ERs, including two options, for delivery from 1999.

A leasing package including some Boeing 777-200ERs for delivery next year, offered by International Lease Finance, has also been examined. Airbus offers include new-build A330-200s and possibly some secondhand A330-300s now operated by troubled Asian carriers such as Philippines Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Garuda Indonesia.

BM flies three A321s, and its existing firm commitments for A320s and A321s stand at 22 aircraft, including orders and lease deals. It also has options with Airbus for an additional 10 aircraft. The A320/A321s replace 737-400s, but the airline has previously indicated that it intended to retain most of its 20 smaller 737-300s and -500s, and has been discussing lease extensions for these aircraft. BM is now believed to be studying the 100/124-seat A318/A319, which will give it commonality with the A320/A321s, and the smaller Next Generation 737 models, the -600 and -700, which have been ordered by BM's major shareholder and partner SAS.

Meanwhile, the airline is developing its regional operations from Manchester through subsidiary Business Air, which flies as BM Commuter. The airline operates Saab 340s but has been studying the 50-seat regional jets (Canadair Regional Jets and Embraer RJs), with an order for one of these models expected.

Source: Flight International