Max Kingsley-Jones andAndrew Doyle/LONDON

EMIRATES IS evaluating bids from Airbus and Boeing for around 16 aircraft to replace its fleet of Airbus A300-600Rs and A310-300s after 1998. Gulf rival Kuwait Airways, meanwhile, has agreed a deal swapping Boeing 747-400 orders for Boeing 777s.

The packages submitted to Emirates are understood to include a mix of widebodies and narrowbodies, with Airbus offering the A330 and A321, and Boeing the 767-300ER and the 757 or 737. The Airbus offer includes the A330-200. Only ILFC and Korean Air have announced orders for the longer-range, smaller-capacity, variant to date. Emirates now has six A300-600Rs and ten A310-300s.

Boeing stole a march on Airbus in 1992 when it secured a contract for seven Rolls-Royce Trent-powered 777-200s. Airbus is striving to retrieve Emirates' custom after losing out to Boeing on the 777, and is seen by some observers as being the front runner for the deal.

George Rickabaugh, Emirates' senior general manager for planning, confirms that the airline is looking at its next stage of fleet renewal: "We are in the process of development of a long-range plan for the period 1998-2005. This is after the last of our seven 777s arrives in October 1997. We have permutations available and hope to have an answer by October."

Emirates' first 777 was delivered on 5 June, and the aircraft is now being operated between Dubai and London, as well as on the airline's new Australian service to Melbourne via Singapore. Options are held on seven aircraft, and Emirates may exercise some or all of these, as the larger -300 version for new transatlantic and Asian routes.

Meanwhile, Kuwait Airways' contract for two 747-400 combis has been switched to a 777 deal which includes two firm orders and possibly one option. Deliveries of the two 777s are expected in March and April 1998.

Boeing confirms that Kuwait Airways "is negotiating" to exchange its order for two 747-400 combis for two 777-200IGWs. "That's roughly the outline of the deal that's being worked out right now," it says. Engine maker General Electric "understands" that the 777s will be powered by its GE90 as part of the exchange for the 747s, which were contracted with CF6-80C2s.

Until now, Kuwait's post-Gulf War fleet-renewal programme has centredy around the Airbus types. The airline ordered 15 Airbuses in 1991, including A300s, A310s, A320s and A340s, and later ordered three 747-400 combis. The first -400 was delivered in 1995, while delivery of the two remaining aircraft was deferred, having originally been scheduled for mid-1996.

Source: Flight International