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BA to decide on remaining long-haul renewal in 2008-09

British Airways (BA) will take a decision on replacement of the remainder of its Boeing 747-400 fleet in 2008-09, following today’s long-awaited Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 order.

The Oneworld carrier has ordered 12 Airbus A380s and 24 Boeing 787s, with options on seven more A380s and 18 more 787s. BA’s first 787 will arrive in 2010, followed by its first A380 in 2012. Both types will be Rolls-Royce-powered.

BA’s long-haul fleet comprises 57 Boeing 747-400s, 43 Boeing 777s and 14 Boeing 767s. The new aircraft will replace 20 of the 747-400s and 14 of its 767s.

But BA is still working on the replacement of the remainder of its 747-400 fleet. It lists the candidate aircraft as the 787-10, 777-300ER and A350 XWB, but no mention is made of the 747-8.

A BA spokeswoman says a decision will be taken around 2008-09: "It is too early to comment on the next stage. We are concentrating on bringing the 787 and A380 into the fleet."

Although the spokeswoman says that the configuration and network for the A380s and 787s is yet to be detailed, she lists Los Angeles, San Francisco, Singapore, Hong Kong, Johannesburg and BA’s Indian destinations as likely A380 routes. But she stresses that these are "not set in stone".

The 787-8 and -9s will be used to replace some of BA’s 14 Boeing 767s. "The great thing about the [787s] is that they can be used for long- or short-haul routes. It is a very flexible aircraft and we will be looking at a whole host of opportunities," says the spokeswoman.

BA says the new aircraft will complement one another in its long-haul fleet, strengthening its network strategy. They will also bring greater flexibility and significant economic benefits, through lower seat costs.

"The A380 will be used to provide more capacity for the airline’s key high-density markets and maximise use of scarce Heathrow slots. The 787 will be used to start new routes and increase frequencies in existing markets," says the firm.

The spokeswoman says the A380 and 787 were selected as they suit the BA fleet plan and growth strategy, but she adds that environmental considerations were a deciding factor. "At London Heathrow that’s a key issue for us," she says.

BA chief executive Willie Walsh says: "These aircraft set the gold standard when it comes to environmental performance in the key areas of CO2 emissions, local air quality and noise. They will contribute significantly to our target of improving fuel efficiency by 25% between 2005 and 2025.

"They are also much quieter than their predecessors, which is of vital importance at Heathrow. Both the A380 and 787 are rated as producing a quarter of the noise level of the 747-400."

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