LanChile has selected the Airbus Industrie A340 over the competing Boeing 777 and is set to announce an agreement for up to 21 aircraft, including options. The deal is a major expansion of the carrier's long haul capability and another significant South American sale for the European consortium.

The Chilean national carrier is understood to have reached agreement with Airbus to order seven A340-300s for delivery from August next year. It has also taken flexible options on seven A340s, which can be switched at 24 months notice from -300s to larger, longer-range, -600s, together with rolling options for seven more.

Airbus concluded the deal after a last minute visit to Chile by its president Noel Forgeard at the end of the Paris air show. Boeing had tried to counter the deal with an offer of 10 777-200ERs and optional positions on another 10 aircraft. While LanChile is believed to have favoured the 777 on technical grounds, the A340 swung the deal on lower pricing, say sources.

A n announcement is not expected from the airline for two weeks. The office of LanChile chief executive Enrique Cueto will not comment on the A340 selection other than to state: "We're continuing to study, and it is a long study."

The carrier plans to use the new long haul aircraft to launch non-stop services from Santiago to Madrid - removing the need to stop at Sao Paulo - and open up Rome as an additional destination. The A340s will eventually replace LanChile's mixed fleet of 13 Pratt & Whitney PW4000- and General Electric CF6-powered Boeing 767-300ERs, which will begin coming off lease in 2003.

LanChile has ordered nine A320s and eleven A319s, along with 20 options, deliveries of which will start next year. These will offer the airline the advantage of cross-crew qualification with the A340.

Airbus' success with LanChile follows the recent sale of 12 A340s to Aerolineas Argentinas.

Source: Flight International