The final part of British Airways evaluation - the replacement of the remaining 37 Boeing 747-400s along with growth requirements through the second half of the decade - was left open to enable the competing products to be better defined, says commercial director Robert Boyle.

"The A350-1000 wasn't sufficiently defined for us to be confident to order the aircraft," he says. "We also wanted more certainty about what Boeing's response will be."

While the A350-1000 is the main focus of the Airbus offering for the next campaign, it will also include the A350-900, says Boyle. From the Boeing stable, he expects candidates to range from "evolutions of the 777-300ER to something more radically new, as well as the 787-10".

This selection, which is expected to be finalised in early 2009, promises to be as crucial as the campaign already fought, believes Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group: "BA is basically the 'SIA of Europe' with the most international long-haul experience, and so there's a lot of cache on offer for who ever wins the order."

He adds that the timing and importance of BA's selection could ensure that it plays "a pivotal role in product definition" for the next generation of long-haul widebodies from Airbus and Boeing.

Source: Flight International