Brent Hannon/TAIPEI

China Airlines (CAL) is preparing to conclude a deal with Boeing for 12 747-400 freighters, but is awaiting Taiwanese Government approval before it finalises the order.

"We will replace our whole freighter fleet with the one aircraft type," says the airline, adding that fleet commonality is the reason for the purchase. Taiwan's Ministry of Transportation and Communications must clear the purchase before the contract can be signed.

CAL's passenger fleet includes 12 Pratt & Whitney PW4000-powered 747-400s, while its cargo services are operated by 10 Boeing 747-200 freighters, six on leases. The 747 Classics will be phased out as the new -400 freighters arrive.

CAL president Sandy Liu has pursued an aggressive fleet rationalisation programme since becoming acting president in November. He became president officially in April. Six Airbus A300B4-200s and two 747SPs have been retired so far.

The expansion of the freighter fleet follows rival EVA Air's deal in May for three 747-400Fs (Flight International, 12-18 May). EVA ordered the 747s rather than convert its last three passenger MD-11s to freighters.

CAL's strong first quarter was the catalyst for the freighter order. In the first three months of this year, it enjoyed a cargo load factor of 83.5%, while its passenger load factor was 71.3%. CAL predicts 1999 revenue of $1.89 billion and pre-tax profits of $52 million. The airline made a pre-tax loss of $89 million last year.

CAL's operating income rose by 17% in the first quarter, compared with the same period last year, while pre-tax profit was $24 million. Low fuel prices and interest rates, a gradual recovery in Asian economies, and an increase in passenger yields and cargo tariffs are cited as the reasons for recovery.

Source: Flight International