Singapore Airlines (SIA) has issued a request for proposals (RFP) on new aircraft to replace Airbus A310s on regional routes as well as some of its older Boeing 747-400s. Although precise numbers are unclear, industry sources indicate the carrier is requesting proposals for between five and 10 aircraft in each category.

SIA will again be considering Airbus A321s or Boeing 737-900s to replace some of its nine A310-300s, and Airbus A340-600s, or Boeing 777-300ERs to replace some of its 38 747-400s. The shorter-range 777-300, which it already operates, may also be offered by Boeing.

The RFP comes three years after the carrier first launched a competition for A310 replacements that led to an extra 10 firm 777-200 orders. SIA has separately been planning to look at 747-400 replacements for some time, but repeatedly pushed back the launch of formal studies.

As part of the first A310-replacement RFP issued early in 2000, SIA also considered the A321 and 737-900, in addition to the Airbus A330-200 and 777-200. At the time it pushed the two manufacturers to develop all-new widebody aircraft in the 200- to 250-seat category or develop smaller variants of their existing widebody twins. It has said it plans to retire its last A310s in 2006.

Although the A321 and 737-900 were deemed most suitable for its requirements in the last competition, many within the airline opposed operations with narrowbody aircraft, fearing SIA would no longer be able to set itself apart at a marketing level from its regional subsidiary SilkAir, which operates an A320-family fleet to secondary Asia-Pacific destinations, while SIA operates regional and long-haul services.

In ordering 777-200s in February 2001, SIA admitted the aircraft was not the ideal choice to replace the A310 in terms of seat capacity but implied it had little choice.

Sources say the carrier has not been entirely happy using 777-200s on some of its regional routes. They also say there is still internal opposition to narrowbodies, which the airline has not operated in its own right for many years.

As a result, any that it may order could be operated by SilkAir, which may take over some of SIA's own regional routes.

Source: Flight International