Airlines Look At Major Widebody Acquisitions

By Jens Flottau, Adrian Schofield
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

South African Airways, Africa's biggest airline, has issued a request for proposals for the renewal of its long-haul fleet, currently made up of Airbus A340-300/600s and A330s. It is looking at both the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350.

In Asia, Singapore Airlines was among the first to resume placing orders, with a combined commitment for 60 A350s and 787s May 30.

Japan Airlines (JAL) is discussing a major order with Boeing and Airbus for the eventual replacement of its 777 fleet, and it is not averse to splitting the order between more than one aircraft type or manufacturer. JAL could make a decision relatively quickly, “if we can get a good deal,” Chairman Masaru Onishi tells Aviation Week; otherwise, it is prepared to postpone a decision. Fleet replacement for the existing 777s is not due to begin until 2019, so “we have a long lead time,” Onishi says.

The airline operates a fleet of 45 777s, divided between 777-200s and -300s primarily used in its domestic fleet, and -200ERs and -300ERs for international routes. Onishi says a wide range of aircraft will be considered as replacements—the 777-9X, 787-9 and -10X, as well as the A350-900 and -1000.

JAL is weighing an order for more than 40 aircraft, says Onishi. Ideally, it would like to replace the 777s with a single package deal, and that is where it will start negotiating. However, if JAL cannot achieve that, it will address the domestic 777 fleet first, Onishi says.

An order divided by either aircraft type or manufacturer is possible. Onishi notes that a fleet of at least 20 of the same type would work for JAL.

Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific Airways is still considering ordering either the Airbus A380 or the Boeing 747-8I, although no decision is imminent, CEO John Slosar says. “We've done some work, but we're not at the point that would lead to a decision,” he says.

Regarding the proposed Boeing 777X range, Slosar says Cathay Pacific will take a close look at the aircraft. The airline is one of the world's largest operators of 777-300ERs, “and we like the type,” he says. “Anything that made it better would be very interesting for us.”

Even European carriers are in the process of finalizing major deals for new widebodies. IAG recently placed a large order for A350-1000s and more 787s (a total of 36 aircraft, not counting options). The group is looking at another order for what is likely to become a 777X fleet later this year.

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