Airbus Industrie and Boeing have submitted fresh proposals to Singapore Airlines (SIA) in response to a renewed impetus within the airline to move ahead with its ultra long haul requirement with either the A340-500 or 777-200X.

The two rival manufacturers are understood to have made improved offers to SIA ahead of the Asian Aerospace '98 show, which starts on 24 February. Within SIA, interest in the requirement has picked up after a period of inactivity and the airline is again trying to play one supplier off against the other to extract maximum concessions.

SIA has asked the two airframers to slash a further $10 million off the unit price of their competing aircraft. In addition, the airline is asking Airbus for improvements in the four-engined A340-500's direct operating costs to match the slightly better ones of the Boeing twinjet.

Boeing, at the same time, is being pressed by SIA for guarantees on the 777-200X's extended range twin-engine operations certification on entry into service, as well as its payload-range performance on the demanding Los Angeles-Singapore route.

Breakeven load factors on this route are critical and estimated to be in the region of 85-90% . SIA's evaluation rules stipulate a still air range of 16,260km (8,790nm), with additional fuel for diversion, holding and go-around, as well as fuel consumption deterioration. This means that neither aircraft could carry more than 200 passengers year-round between Singapore and the US West Coast.

The number of aircraft required by SIA has varied between six and ten, depending on the number of new ultra long haul routes that the carrier plans to operate under its recently concluded open skies agreement with the USA. SIA would be likely to convert some of the existing 20 A340 or 31 777 options that it already holds.

While the A340-500/600 is already launched, the 777-200X/ 300X is not. Boeing sources say that they require some 30 orders from three customers to get the programme off the ground. It is primarily targeting American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, both of which have ordered the twinjet and have large numbers of options.

Boeing is hoping that the new bilateral air services agreement between Washington and Tokyo will generate a need for extra long haul capacity and prompt both carriers into committing to the -200X and stretched -300X version.

Source: Flight International