Don't count on A330/340s; while it is undeniably the most likely, Boeing could put in a very good deal for 777s. Remember, with US open skies, Aer Lingus will be able to expand its US (and hopefully, in time, other long haul) services, so a fleet of 12-15 long haul aircraft is not impossible. At the rate EI
has grown its business over the last 2-3 years, don't be surprised to see EI
continuing to go for growth. It is the only major European national carrier which has really got its act together on the cost front.
Currently, US and Irish authorities are meeting to discuss new access, but of course, any deal reached would be superseded by a EU/US deal, if this can be agreed next year. Aer Lingus clearly wants more access and of course, open skies, but the Irish govt still wants (or wants to be seen!) to protect Shannon, but I don't think they'll obstruct Aer Lingus's plans if a deal can be reached and if EI
can be persuaded to put something forward as a sop to the Shannon lobby, at least for next year.
I thought for some time that Boeing might be able to use the bilateral card to get an EI
order, but with an agreement imminent, I'm not sure that's the case any more. If EI
does order Airbus, it will be A330-300IGWs and -200s, not 340s. The problem is, of course, that there's no growth variant of the A330, so if they need something bigger, it'll have to be 346s. Boeing, on the other hand, could offer the 773 when the time comes.
Boeing has an added incentive in that EI
could be a very good European launch customer for the 7E7-400ER, which could replace A330-200s from around 2008. Thus, if a Boeing deal were done, I'd expect 777-200s to replace A330-300s in the near term (2004-5) and more A330-200s to be added, with all -200s to be replaced by 7E7s by 2009. However, with the commonality advantage EI
has with Airbus, Boeing has a lot of talking to do!