Air Pacific set to decide this month on aircraft acquisition, with both Airbus and Boeing types being considered

Fiji's Air Pacific is evaluating Airbus and Boeing widebodies as part of the all-Boeing operator's plans to meet rising demand for travel to the Pacific islands.

"We need to resolve future needs in the 400-plus and 250- to 300-seat range aircraft. Therefore [Airbus] A340 and [Boeing] 747 aircraft and A330 and 767 aircraft are all under review," says Air Pacific chief executive John Campbell.

Directors will consider proposals and should decide on the future fleet when they meet this month.

Campbell does not say how many aircraft in each class are needed, but one of each seems most likely given the size of the current fleet and route network. The additional widebodies are likely to be leased, as Air Pacific's 747-200B and 767-300ER are both operated on lease. Air Pacific also owns two 737-800s.

In the meantime another 747-200 or a -400 will be leased to allow Air Pacific to proceed with plans to expand services to North America and Australia. This will free the carrier's 767 to provide additional services planned for New Zealand.

Campbell gives no timeframe for implementing these plans, but with the search for the 747 under way it is likely extra services will be slotted into the timetable from October.

Qantas, which owns a 46% stake in Air Pacific, may influence the airline's choice as it already provides some fleet support. The Australian flag carrier operates 767s, but has A330s on order. It has leased Air Pacific its 747-200 and provides ad hoc charters as required. For the last few weeks of July it was providing an almost daily service to Suva, replacing the Air Pacific flights grounded by workers striking over a raft of issues including pay, rosters and layoffs following the 2000 coup in Fiji.

Source: Flight International