BA eyes 777-300 to replace 747s
Max Kingsley Jones/LONDON
British Airways is studying a plan to expand its Boeing 777 fleet through the acquisition of the -300 stretch model in a move which would involve trading in up to 12 Boeing 747-400s.
As part of its efforts to reduce capacity, BA has already phased out half its 747 Classics and replaced them with 777s.
The airline operates 40 Boeing 777-200/200ERs, including 29 General Electric GE90-powered models and 11 Rolls-Royce Trent equipped examples. Orders are held for a further five Trent-powered -200ERs.
The 15 remaining 747-200s are due to be retired over the next 18 months, and it is understood that even after this the airline's strategy calls for the reduction of its 56-strong R-R RB211-powered 747-400 fleet. A recent proposal to place four -400s with Virgin Atlantic was scuppered when the rival airline chose instead to acquire five new 747-400s from GE Capital Aviation Services.
BA planners are believed to have identified several long-haul routes where the 350 to 370-seat 777-300 model could effectively replace the larger 747-400, and see a need for up to 10-12 aircraft. The airline has discussed a deal with Boeing and the engine manufacturers which would involve trading in a similar number of 747-400s.
The plan is being complicated by BA's performance requirements, which are understood to demand a high maximum take-off weight (MTOW) version of the -300 and rule out the 300t (660,000lb) MTOW Trent-powered model.
Boeing and GE have proposed the 13,330km range/ 340t MTOW 777-300ER which is equipped with the GE90-115. This model, which is in development, has greater performance than the airline requires, and would also involve BA reverting to GE for its 777 engines after switching to R-R in 1998.
An alternative higher gross weight version of the baseline 777-300 equipped with Trents has been proposed. This would feature an MTOW between the present 300t and the "700,000lb" (319t) ceiling set by the GE's 1999 exclusivity ideal with Boeing which dictates that all 777s over this weight are powered by the GE90 engine.
As it has clearly been stated, BA will be replacing about 12 B 747-400s with the B 777-300ERs. Does that mean that British Airways will NEVER order a single B 747-400 from Boeing? Also does that mean that British Airways will not be going for the B 747-400LR?