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Lufthansa closes in on regionals and A330-300s

ANDREW DOYLE / SINGAPORE & PAUL LEWIS / FARNBOROUGH

German carrier eyes Bombardier and Embraer jets as it finalises Airbus order

Lufthansa has issued industry with requests for proposals (RFP) for 75 large regional jets to replace its recently cancelled order for Fairchild Dornier 728s. The carrier at the same time is close to finalising an order for 10 Airbus A330-300s to replace six A340-200s used on routes to the Middle East and central Asia.

Manufacturer sources say the RFP covers aircraft with 70-110 seats, for delivery between 2004 and 2007. The carrier, in addition to looking at the Bombardier CRJ700/900 and Embraer 175/195, has also sent RFPs to Airbus and Boeing for the A319 and 717 respectively, says the source. The latter two types may prove too large and heavy for Lufthansa's regional needs. Responses were due in as Flight International went to press.

In a departure from previous plans Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings will operate the yet-to-be selected new regional jet rather than Lufthansa CityLine, and transfer its ATR 42/72 turboprop fleet to partner carrier Contact Air. In a further shake-up, Lufthansa CityLine will move its 18 BAE Systems RJ85s to Eurowings and standardise its fleet around the CRJ200/700.

Meanwhile, industry sources say Lufthansa has decided to reject a Boeing widebody proposal and wants to acquire five Airbus A330-300s in 2004 and another five the following year, subject to supervisory board approval. Options could be taken on 15 more of the twinjets.

"We have made no commitment until now," says Lufthansa. "We are still in negotiations with Boeing and Airbus." The German flag carrier has also been considering an offer of ex-Singapore Airlines A340-300s from Boeing, which is taking the aircraft as part of an earlier 777 sale to the Asian airline.

The A330 is the only Airbus type the carrier has not purchased. Lufthansa is the European manufacturer's largest airline customer. Lufthansa's A340-200s will be taken by South African Airways on interim leases until the carrier begins receiving the new A340-300s and -600s it ordered earlier this year. An A330 engine RFP is expected in September.

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