Korean Air (KAL) and Singapore Airlines (SIA) are negotiating with Airbus Industrie and Boeing to defer up to 16 widebody aircraft due for delivery in 1999 and 2000, as Asia's economic downturn takes its toll on air traffic.

Industry and airline sources suggest that KAL is asking manufacturers to defer all 11 widebodies it has on order for delivery in 1999. The aircraft are four Airbus A330-300s due for delivery in February, July, August and September; one A330-200 in July; and three Boeing 747-400s, one -400 freighter, one 777-200 and two -300s scheduled for June and July. All the aircraft are Pratt & Whitney PW4000-powered.

KAL has confirmed that it will take all 11 aircraft originally scheduled for this year, including its first 777-300 and A330-200s, but deferrals in 1999 are likely to have an impact on deliveries due the following year. The South Korean flag carrier has a further four 777-300s and four A330-300s due in 2000.

The airline warned when it recently announced an order for 22 new 737-800/900s that its widebody positions in 1999/2000 were subject to review. It is believed that Emirates may step in to take KAL's A330-200 position in July 1999, while Delta Air Lines is looking at some of its 777 slots. Both deals would entail switching engines from the PW4000 to the Rolls-Royce Trent 700/800.

KAL is now feeling the full impact of the country's economic troubles, with the latest Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines figures for the South Korean carrier showing a further 26.3% fall in revenue passenger kilometres in April. This is mirrored by Korea Airport Authority statistics that show a 24.5% fall in international and domestic airport passenger traffic in the first half of 1998.

SIA, too, has been unable to insulate itself from the economic fall-out of the past nine months. The airline is now reviewing its forward delivery positions and is understood to be seeking deferral on one A340-300 and four R-R Trent-powered 777s due in July, August, September and November 2000. Three of the 777s would be pushed back to October or November 2001 and the fourth twinjet to March 2002.

This will effectively leave the carrier with no 777 firm delivery positions in 2000. SIA has already announced a 13-month deferral on the delivery of a PW4000-powered 747-400 until March 2000.

Its plans now call for the delivery of six 777s, one A340-300 and one 747-400 freighter in 1999.

Source: Flight International