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Boeing offers A340 buy-back in effort to place 777s with CAL

ANDREW DOYLE / TAIPEI

But the proposal is likely to revive controversy over the US manufacturer's sales tactics

Boeing is offering to buy back China Airlines' (CAL) Airbus A340-300 fleet as part of its campaign to place 777s with the Taiwanese carrier.

The proposal, if accepted by CAL, would re-ignite controversy over the US manufacturer's sales tactics following its 1999 agreement to buy 17 A340-300s from Singapore Airlines (SIA) as part of a major 777 contract. That deal prompted Airbus to threaten withdrawing technical support for Boeing-owned A340s.

CAL, which has received four of seven A340s on firm order, is evaluating offers from Airbus and Boeing for up to 20 widebody twins for high-density regional routes. The original A340 order, placed in August 1999, included five options, four of which were for the A330. The Airbus twinjet is seen as the front-runner because of the type's commonality with the A340 and CAL's aim of reducing the number of aircraft types in its fleet.

Michael Carson, sales director for Boeing Commercial Airplanes Group Asia Pacific, says the A340 buy-back is just one option being discussed and would be implemented only "if both sides could make a business case for it". CAL declines to comment.

However, CAL president and chief executive Christine Tsung told Flight International's sister publication Airline Business recently that the carrier was considering converting firm orders for Boeing 747-400F freighters to 777-300s because of a slowdown in the air freight sector. She also said the carrier was considering ordering up to 20 A330s or 777s to replace Airbus A300-600Rs.

In 1999 CAL placed firm orders for 13 747-400Fs and took options on four more. It also ordered seven A340-300s in 1999 and took options on four A330-300s and one more A340. The A330 options were cancelled late last year when CAL began considering a larger order for regional widebody aircraft.

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