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US Airways in Early Talks With Airbus to Replace Boeing 757

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Aug. 17 (Bloomberg) -- US Airways Group Inc., the smallest of the major U.S. full-fare carriers, is in early talks with Airbus SAS about whether the A321neo jet could be a replacement for the airline’s aging Boeing Co. 757s.

“While we can confirm we are talking to Airbus, our talks are in a very informal stage as we gather more information from them on the potential capabilities of the A321neo,” Todd Lehmacher, a US Airways spokesman, said today in an e-mail.

Though the Tempe, Arizona-based airline currently has no plans to order additional narrow-body aircraft, it eventually will have to decide on a 757 replacement, he said. US Airways’ 24 757s have an average age of about 18 years. Boeing built the last 757 in 2004.

US Airways uses the single-aisle 757s on some international routes from its U.S. East Coast hubs, including Charlotte, North Carolina, to Dublin. There are 89 Boeing aircraft in US Airways’ 339-plane fleet, or about 26 percent of the total.

“We talk to aircraft manufacturers all the time,” Lehmacher said, without saying specifically whether US Airways was looking at a 757 replacement from Boeing.

Clay McConnell, a U.S. spokesman for Toulouse, France-based Airbus, declined to comment on talks with US Airways.

“US Airways is a great customer,” he said. “We have a longstanding relationship with them. We talk with airlines that are our customers and aren’t our customers all the time.”

Marc Birtel, a spokesman for Chicago-based Boeing, declined to comment. The company’s 737-900 is closest in range and size to the 757.

Neo Versions

The neo has become Airbus’s fastest-selling aircraft since the planemaker announced in December that it would offer a version of its narrow-body planes with new, more fuel-efficient engines. Airbus is offering neo versions of its A320, the larger A321 and the smaller A319.

The A321 had a shorter range than the 757 until Airbus decided to offer it with so-called sharklets, a type of upturned wingtip that adds 100 nautical miles (185 kilometers) to its reach or increases the payload by 1,100 pounds (500 kilograms). The sharklets will be available starting next year.

The talks between US Airways and Airbus were reported earlier today by TheStreet.com.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Schlangenstein in Dallas at maryc.s@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net