Airlines keep pressure on Airbus and Boeing for narrowbody successors

By Niall O'Keeffe

The gloom surrounding the airline industry has not relieved the pressure on Airbus and Boeing to progress their narrowbody succession plans. KLM chief executive Peter Hartman is urging the two rivals to clarify their single-aisle replacement strategies, while US Airways has called for them both to develop a Boeing 757 successor.

Hartman says that the onset of recession has not slowed KLM's fleet renewal drive:

"We sent out a tender for 100 aircraft - it can be easily more. We want to know now exactly what will be the most likely delivery dates of these aircraft anda little bit more about the final specifications. Both sides are delaying, delaying, delaying. Now we want to have clarity."

Speaking in Keukenhof in the Netherlands during the ceremonial naming of a KLM tulip ahead of the airline's 90th birthday, Hartman said that recent experience had sharpened the situation's urgency: "In KLM we have one bad experience, and that is with old Fokker 100s, where we were not able to replace them earlier.We see that in the endit is almost impossible to secure and guarantee an operational integrity because they are too old."

He said that KLM wants to avoid "running into the same risk" with the aircraft that will need replacing in 2014-15. "That means in fact that you have to order tomorrow already. That's why we want to have clarity from both: when can you deliver, and can you put it on a piece of paper?"

Meanwhile, US Airways senior vice-president marketing and planning Andrew Nocella is keen for a successor to the Boeing 757, which it uses extensively on international services. "We have asked both manufacturers to design a replacement, although that could be years away," he says.

Nocella recently told Flight International that the airline could retain its 757-200s until around 2020.

US Airways' latest projected fleet shows it ending the year with 24 757s, down from 39 at the end of 2008. Nocella says the airline has 13 extended twin-engine operations-capable 757s available for transatlantic flights to Europe this summer, and will have 15it can use for summer 2010. The 15 757s leaving the fleet comprise the majority of the 28 aircraft US Airways is cutting this year.

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