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SIA rules out A340 replacement

By Nicholas Ionides in Singapore

Singapore flag carrier decides against acquisition of Boeing 777-200LR as it orders A350 XWB and more A380s

Singapore Airlines (SIA) is no longer considering replacing its Airbus A340-500s with Boeing 777-200LRs and plans to keep the ultra-long-range Airbus aircraft for use on non-stop services to the USA. The confirmation came as the airline completed a more than year-long fleet renewal and expansion study programme that culminated in orders for A350-900s and more Airbus A380s. In June the airline ordered Boeing 787s.

SIA uses its A340-500s for non-stop services between Singapore and Los Angeles and New York. Last year it began looking at whether to replace the five four-engined jets with twin-engined 777-200LRs, in part because it is a major operator of several other variants of the 777. SIA currently has 58 777s in service and 19 more on order.

A request for proposals (RFP) to Boeing asked for offers to replace the entire A340-500 fleet with 777-200LRs, while at the same time SIA was studying whether it was more cost effective to keep the A340-500s and increase the size of the fleet. The airline has decided that it is not worth replacing the aircraft or increasing the size of the fleet and the five examples will continue to operate on the two Singapore-USA routes. It confirms it is "no longer considering the 777-200LR".

SIA is meanwhile reviewing offers for engines to power the additional A380s it plans to order. It is also "talking to the various manufacturers" about engines to power its future fleets of A350 XWBs and 787s.

Twenty A350-900s are to be taken on firm order as well as nine additional A380-800s, which SIA selected over the Boeing 747-8. The order announcement came just over a month after SIA ordered 20 787-9s, which many took as a sign that it was no longer considering ordering A350s. It also came in the wake of the fallout from new delays in early A380 deliveries.

The carrier will be the first operator of the A380. Its original order was for 10 Rolls-Royce Trent 900-powered aircraft for delivery from this year. SIA says "it is certainly not a given" that it will stick with the R-R engine for the additional A380s and that "there is an RFP active on engines" between R-R and the Engine Alliance, which produces the GP7000.

The additional A380s are due for delivery between late 2008 and 2010, while the A350s are due for delivery between 2012 and 2014.

SIA is the only airline that to date has committed to ordering both the 787 and the A350, which recently underwent a major revamp. The airline says it sees room in its fleet for both types, adding that they can also be used to replace some of its oldest 777s.

Ahead of the delivery of the A350s, SIA will be leasing 19 new A330-300s from Airbus as "interim lift" beginning in 2009 and they will for the most part be on lease terms of five to six years.

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