Japanese carrier ignores A320 and opts for 737s as it renews narrowbody fleet

Japan Airlines (JAL) is staying loyal to Boeing by placing firm orders for 30 737s and taking 10 options to replace its older narrowbodies.

The carrier had been assessing offers from Airbus and Boeing for new A320 or 737 narrowbodies since October, when it issued requests for proposals. The 737 selection is not a surprise as JAL is a loyal Boeing customer and has never ordered aircraft from Airbus, but there had been indications in recent weeks that the A320 had gained ground in the competition and was a serious contender.

JAL says it has yet to decide which 737 variants it will select, although it adds that it will choose between the -700, -800 and -900. It plans to finalise an order "in spring of this year" for delivery from the second half of the 2006 financial year ending 31 March 2007.

The airline, Asia's biggest, is to use the new aircraft to replace Boeing MD-81/87/90s, 42 of which are in service. It is already a 737 operator, with 23 -400s that it plans to replace later. "Factors contributing to the choice are JAL's need to minimise the number of aircraft types in the fleet and overall business efficiency," it says of its 737 selection.

While the 737 order announcement will surprise few, it is an important win for Boeing following the loss of several narrowbody order contests to Airbus over the past year - many of them in Asia.

It also represents another setback for Airbus in the important Japanese market, where the European airframer has far fewer of its aircraft operating than does Boeing. The last major narrowbody aircraft deal in Japan was at All Nippon Airways, which in 2003 dealt Airbus a major blow by ordering 45 737-700s to replace its A320s.


Source: Flight International