Brent Hannon/TAIPEI

Long-time Boeing customer EVA Airways has concluded deals for up to eight Airbus A330-200 twinjets, instead of an order for the rival Boeing 767-400ER.

The Taiwanese private airline has an agreement to purchase two A330-200s and take another six on operating lease. The deal is expected to be finalised by April. Deliveries of the General Electric CF6-80E1-powered aircraft will begin in March 2003, and probably extend through 2005, depending on final arrangements with the leasing companies. GE Capital Aviation Services is believed to be the source of the leased aircraft.

EVA operates eight 767s - four Boeing 767-200s and four 767-300ERs - all of which will be retired as the new Airbuses arrive. The 261-seat A330s will be deployed on Asian routes. The aircraft will be the airline's first Airbuses. An earlier deal for up to 12 A340s was dropped in 1998.

With EVA deriving nearly 45% of its revenue from cargo, EVA senior vice president K W Nieh says that the A330-200's larger cargo hold was a key factor in its selection over the 767 in spite of hard lobbying by the US manufacturer. "The cargo hold can accommodate the same increments as our Boeing 747-400s," he says. The A330-200's larger size and longer range combined with the discount on offer from Airbus also swayed the decision, says Nieh.

Despite high fuel prices, EVA has twice increased its profit forecast for 2000, most recently projecting a pre-tax profit of NT$2.5 billion ($78 million) on revenues of NT$54.4 billion. Bookings remain strong through the January 21 - 28 Chinese New Year holiday, a traditional peak period, but are weak after that, says Nieh. Taiwan's economy is slowing, and its stock market has fallen more than 50% since March 2000, a combination that usually reduces consumer spending on discretionary items like travel.

Source: Flight International