Thu, Dec 13, 2007 - Page 12 News List

Experts praise CAL's selection of Airbus

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Aviation experts yesterday lauded China Airlines Ltd's (CAL, 中華航空) decision to purchase 20 A350-900 aircraft from European manufacturer Airbus as a sound strategy to enhance the state-run airliner's fleet capacity.

"It's a good choice," said Mike Lo (樂大信), former chairman of Far Eastern Air Transport Corp (遠東航空), adding that it would be the largest deal in local aviation history.

Lo said that, in general, Airbus' pricing has always been more competitive than that of the US's Boeing Co.

If it were to be offered a good deal for the 20 new aircraft after trading in its six to-be-retired A340-300 aircraft, CAL's prospects of establishing a modern next-generation fleet of medium-capacity long-haul aircraft should be promising, he said.

"The choice of British Rolls-Royce engines [instead of the US' General Electric], the best available, is key to its business success," Lo said, dismissing media speculation that the deal had anything to do with politics.

Media reports suggested that CAL chose a European manufacturer rather than a US competitor to put pressure on the US.

CAL's board approved on Tuesday a letter of intent with Airbus for the purchase of 20 A350-900s, to be introduced from 2015 to 2020, at a total list price of US$4.2 billion.

"The move reaffirms CAL's determination to improve and modernize its fleet, expand its markets, and meet passenger demand in order to strengthen its market position," CAL said in a statement.

The airline also aims to enhance Taiwan's role as a regional aviation hub in the Asia Pacific, the statement added.

"CAL is committed to providing its passengers with the best possible service and flight safety," said CAL chairman Ringo Chao (趙國帥), who took office two months ago.

Lo also said Chao is a talented CEO, who "respects professionalism and systems."

The CAL-Airbus deal includes 14 firm orders with a further six on option for aircraft with a capacity of approximately 366 seats, more than CAL's existing A340 and A330 aircraft, as well as a higher commonality so as to save training costs.

CAL's fleet totals 68 aircraft, including 48 passenger aircraft and 20 freighters, with an average age of 5.6 years, the company said.

Its passenger fleet consists of 15 Boeing 747-400s, 11 Boeing 737-800s, six Airbus A340-300s and 16 Airbus 330-300s.

For cargo operations, the airline deploys the largest fleet of Boeing 747-400F freighters in the world.

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