Julian Moxon/PARIS

US Airways is set to become the first US airline to operate new generation Airbus widebodies when it introduces the first of up to 30 A330-300s late next year. The Airbus deal follows a drawn out and closely fought competition against Boeing's 767-300/400.

The order comes after a last-minute wage deal with US Airways pilots' unions, which had demanded a new agreement to fly widebodied aircraft. The carrier already has an order with Airbus for up to 400 single-aisle aircraft. Seven A330s are on firm order, with a further seven to be reconfirmed, plus 16 options. Delivery of the first is set for the fourth quarter of 1999, followed by six more in 2000. The engine selection, between General Electric, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce, has not been made.

While Northwest and TWA have longstanding orders for the A330, both airlines have deferred deliveries indefinitely. Stephen Wolf, US Airways president, says the reconfirmations are a "financial obligation" imposed by the banks. "We intend to buy all 30 of the aircraft to support our expanding transatlantic operations, and we need them as soon as possible". The carrier now operates 12 200-seat Boeing 767-200s on transatlantic routes. The A330s will be configured in three classes accommodating 278 passengers.

According to Wolf, the A330, in direct competition with the Boeing 767-300 and -400, "-offered more capacity for passengers and cargo, more range, more passenger appeal and better delivery positions", although he adds that Boeing "was not far behind" on its delivery offer. Furthermore, the A330 is "consistent in cockpit design with the A320".

The A330s will be introduced progressively on all transatlantic routes operated by US Airways from Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Boston, including Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London Gatwick, Madrid, Munich, Paris and Rome.

Applications are in hand to serve Milan and London Heathrow and to increase services to Paris. Athens, Brussels, Manchester, and Zurich could be served in future.

Source: Flight International