British Airways has begun evaluating responses from suppliers to its request for proposals (RFP) for upward of 50 widebody aircraft to replace its Boeing 767s and older 747-400s.
The airline issued the RFP to Airbus and Boeing and the engine manufacturers in October, and the responses were all due back by the end of December, says BA commercial director Robert Boyle. "We're analysing the responses and preparing to begin the first round of negotiations," he says.
A final decision on the order is expected in 2007 to enable the first deliveries of "bridging aircraft" in early 2009, adds Boyle.
Speaking to Flight International during the launch of BA's London-Calgary service last month, Boyle said the airline's core requirement totals 40-50 aircraft plus options. The requirement includes 34 aircraft to replace its 20 oldest Boeing 747-400s and its 14 767-300ERs as well as 10 bridging aircraft and units to cover the airline's growth requirements.
The Airbus A330 and Boeing 777-200ER are in contention for the short-term bridging requirement for delivery from 2009, ahead of the main fleet expansion package, which will comprise either the A350 or the 777-300ER and 787-9/10 for the twinjet requirement and the A380 or 747-8 for the large-aircraft requirement. Boyle says the A340-600 was excluded because BA is looking to the A350-1000 for its requirements in this size category from Airbus.
"We have already reserved 10 777-200ER production slots from 2009," says Boyle, but these bridging deliveries will be confirmed only if the Boeing 777-300ER/787 package is selected. "If we go with Airbus, then the A330 will be the bridge to the A350."
For the 747 replacement, Boyle says deliveries would be in the 2011 to 2013/14 timeframe and it is "extremely unlikely" BA will split the initial 747-400 replacement deal between the A380 and 747-8. "But it might be different for the next batch," he adds, implying the airline could ultimately acquire a mix of both ultra-large types to replace its entire 747-400 fleet.
Boyle acknowledges that the recent Lufthansa 747-8 order improves the prospects for Boeing because "BA doesn't usually like to be the first customer". He says the recent delays that have blighted the A380 programme do not concern him, but they "make it likely that we'll get a better deal out of Airbus".
The A380 will have to beat off the 747-8 for this image to become a reality