Malaysia Airlines has opened talks with aircraft lessors as well as Airbus and Boeing as part of a long-delayed plan to replace its 39 Boeing 737-400s with new narrowbody aircraft.

Industry sources say early talks have begun with suppliers and MAS hopes to start acquiring new aircraft from late 2008, although the sources say this may be an unrealistic goal because of a shortage of aircraft in the market.

John Leahy, Airbus chief operating officer customers, was quoted by local media last week as confirming that a request for proposals has been issued by MAS for new narrowbodies. It is thought that Airbus and Boeing have until June to submit their initial offers.

The airline has several times considered replacing its 39 737-400s in recent years, but has repeatedly deferred any decision as a result of financial difficulty.

It last considered offers from Airbus for A320-family aircraft and Boeing for new 737s in 2005, but then fell into financial trouble.

Source: Flight International