CONTINENTAL Airlines says that it could enter a long-term sole-supplier pact with Boeing in the process of picking an aircraft to replace the airline's ageing fleet of 27 McDonnell Douglas DC-10 passenger aircraft.

Gordon Bethune, Continental's chairman and chief executive, says that he is initially seeking 40 aircraft worth as much as $4 billion. He says that the field has been narrowed to "an appropriate mix" of Boeing 767/777s and the Airbus Industrie A330-200. A selection is to be made by the middle of May.

Boeing has reached exclusive deals with Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, and Bethune "-is interested in seeing how such a deal would work for us".

He has asked Boeing to give him a proposal based on Continental's agreement to buy all of its aircraft from Boeing in the decades ahead. Bethune "-wants to see what the offer will look like if further enhanced by a sole-supplier pact. The A330-200 is the appropriate size and immediately available. It is a very good aircraft," he says.

- Continental hopes to learn within the next few weeks whether it or American will acquire a 20% stake in Aerolineas Argentinas, for about $300 million.

Source: Flight International