Northwest Airlines is in the final stages of negotiating a potentially large order for Airbus A330s and Boeing 757-300s as Continental Airlines confirms its plan to buy 15 757-300s.

The Minneapolis-based carrier is looking to replace its ageing fleet of 21 McDonnell Douglas DC-10-40s used on domestic services, and the 22 DC-10-30s it employs primarily on North Atlantic routes. "We're in the process of doing this and while we have not yet made any decision, an announcement could come before winter," says Northwest.

The airline is believed to be looking at ordering up to 12 757-300s for use on high density, low yield routes. Northwest is also considering placing a sizeable order for A330 twinjets to replace its DC-10s to cater for growth. A deferred order placed in 1987 for 16 Pratt & Whitney PW4000-powered A330s remains in limbo on the Airbus books.

Continental has become the first US major airline to commit to the stretched 757. It will receive its 15 Rolls-Royce RB211 powered aircraft between late 2001 and 2003. Like Northwest, it is expected to use the stretched 757 to expand capacity on some routes as well as to replace its DC-10s as part of a wider fleet rationalisation.

The airline is also expected to be a launch customer for the proposed extended range 757-200ERX (Flight International, 12-18 September). Continental's 757-300 purchase brings total orders for the model to 44.

· Air France has confirmed its purchase of 10 General Electric GE90-115B-powered Boeing 777-300ERs, with 10 options, as part of its "continuing fleet rationalisation". Delivery of the first aircraft is set for October 2003. The 348-seaters will join 11 777-200ERs already ordered, providing a capacity which "is required for our growing North Atlantic and Asian operations, which are partly due to the beneficial effects of the Skyteam Alliance".

Source: Flight International