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Airbus Industrie remains favourite to win an order from SAS for its new long-haul fleet, as the carrier evaluates a new larger aircraft type for its European trunk routes.

Flight International revealed in January that SAS had chosen Airbus Industrie's package of up to 15 A330-300s and A340-300s over the Boeing 777 to replace its 190-seat Boeing 767-300ERs, but was waiting for its internal cost cutting targets to be met.

The airline confirms that it is finalising the selection of a new long haul fleet and the Airbus bid is favoured, but says a final decision has not been made. SAS is aiming to conclude a deal this year with an order possibly as early as May or June.

SAS notes in its latest annual report that its earning ability has been hurt by "a lack of capacity" on intercontinental services, which have been operating at a high load factor, and is keen to introduce a new larger type as soon as possible. Deliveries of the new fleet could begin as early as 2001.

In tandem with the long-haul studies, SAS says it is examining aircraft to replace 75 140-seat Boeing MD-80/90s on medium haul operations from "the second half of the next decade".

SAS has recently introduced the first of at least 55 Next Generation 737s on order, with initial deliveries being the 116-seat -600 model to replace Fokker F28s and McDonnell Douglas DC-9s. The airline has specified at least six 737s will be delivered as the 131-seat -700 model (from November this year) and five as the 179-seat -800 (from April next year), for dense domestic routes. SAS also holds 40 737 options, and the stretched 737-900, which will seat 189 passengers, is believed to be under consideration for the new medium haul fleet, along with the Boeing 757 and Airbus A320 family.

Deliveries of the first of at least 17 70-seat Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s to SAS Commuter will begin in October to replace Fokker 50s. Despite a major commitment to this high speed turboprop (36 Q400 commitments are also held), the airline says it is at the early stage of studies into a 70-seat regional jet type for "long routes with low passenger volumes".

Meanwhile, SAS has delivered the first of three F28 Mk4000s to its Finnish regional associate Air Botnia. The wholly owned Vantaa-based subsidiary is acquiring the 70-seaters for expansion into jet operations. The airline's fleet includes five British Aerospace Jetstream 31s and four Saab 340s.

Source: Flight International