DOHA Air New Zealand is close to placing an order for around a dozen A320-family aircraft worth well over $1 billion at list prices to expand its fleet of mainly Airbus medium-haul jets, industry sources said on Saturday.
The deal, which could be announced on the sidelines of a global airlines meeting in Doha on Sunday, is the latest step in the airline's fleet renewal programme that will also see it soon introduce the latest version of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner .
Airbus has called a news conference to announce an airplane order on Sunday, but declined to give further details. Air New Zealand did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The announcement comes as the International Air Transport Association, whose 240 airline members include Air New Zealand's Tasman partner Virgin Australia and its main rival Qantas, prepares to hold meetings from June 1 to 3.
Air New Zealand operates mainly Airbus short- and medium-haul aircraft and Boeing long-haul aircraft. It has been evaluating the latest offering from Airbus, the A320neo, against the competing Boeing 737 MAX for use on trans-Tasman routes - where it competes with Qantas unit Jetstar in partnership with Virgin Australia, of which it owns around 25 percent. In 2009, it ordered 14 Airbus A320 jets to replace Boeing 737-300 models and placed options for a further 11 including the possibility of taking the larger A321. Its Airbus order tally has since edged up to 15, of which it has already taken 10. It is also the launch customer for the Boeing 787-9, a bigger version of Boeing's carbon-composite Dreamliner. It is due to take first delivery in the middle of the year to phase out older Boeing 767s, fitting into its network for Asian routes alongside the bigger Boeing 777 serving North America.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Victoria Bryan)