European governments are putting pressure on Fiji to reverse an Air Pacific order for three Boeing 737-700s with an option on a fourth, and order Airbus aircraft instead. The Fijian flag carrier ordered the aircraft in 1996 to add to its all-Boeing fleet of 737s, a 747 and one 767.

In a joint statement, the European Union (EU), French and UK diplomatic missions in Suva confirm that the issue has been discussed with Fijian prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka. The statement says that Rabuka's attention has been drawn to the merits of Airbus Industrie aircraft by diplomats, who "-consider it of great importance that the selection of aircraft by Air Pacific be fair, open and transparent, and that the purchasing decision be based on commercial terms and technical merit".

The diplomats say that EU aid to Fiji has totalled 188.4 million European currency units ($250 million) in road, agriculture and rural development. They add that the country is protected by an EU protocol covering about 45% of its sugar exports worth an annual $72 million; it has preferences in Europe for tuna and manufactured garments; and it runs a trade surplus with the EU.

Air Pacific chairman Gerald Barrack insists that the fleet decision is part of a long-range corporate planning study using in- dependent consultants, who identify the 737-700 as the most suitable type for Air Pacific's future requirements. "This recommendation was based on commercial considerations and technical merit. As a launch customer in the South Pacific for the new 737-700, Air Pacific has been able to negotiate a competitive price and has secured a wide range of training, spares and other support packages," he says.

Air Pacific has signed a legally binding contract for the purchase of three aircraft and an option for a fourth. The first aircraft will be delivered in July 1998.

Source: Flight International