Continental places pounds 2.9bn plane order: Airline selects Rolls-Royce engines for 757s in firm requirement of 92 Boeings with 100 options

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The Independent Online
CONTINENTAL Airlines of the US, which last week emerged from three years of bankruptcy protection, yesterday placed firm orders with Boeing for 92 aircraft worth dollars 4.5bn (pounds 2.9bn).

The airline, which has been forced to fly with one of the industry's oldest fleets because of its bankruptcy status, also took out options on a further 100 jets worth another dollars 5bn.

The combined orders are worth up to dollars 600m to the UK aero-engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce, which is supplying Continental with RB211-535 engines for up to 50 Boeing 757s.

A Rolls spokesman said, however, that the order would not affect plans announced earlier this year for 5,000 job losses including more than 1,500 at its civil engine division based in Derby.

The Continental order covers most of the Boeing product range from the smallest jet, the 737, through to its latest wide-bodied twinjet, the 777, which enters service in 1995.

Continental has placed firm orders for 25 757s with 25 on option, five 777s with five options, 12 767-300ERs with 18 options and 50 737s with a further 50 options.

Apart from the 757s, all the aircraft will be powered by engines built by General Electric of the US and Snecma of France - a deal worth up to dollars 1.5bn to the American aero-engine manufacturer.

Continental emerged from bankruptcy restructuring last week for the second time in the past decade, on this occasion thanks to an equity infusion from Air Canada and a group of Texan investors.

Of the 92 firm orders placed yesterday, 75 were announced in 1990 before Continental went into Chapter 11 protection. The airline cancelled a parallel dollars 4.5bn order with Airbus as part of its bankruptcy.

The Boeing purchase will allow Continental to retire ageing planes, saving as much as 15 per cent of its fuel bill, while maintaining its total fleet at 325 aircraft.

The Houston-based airline is America's fifth-largest. It serves other countries in North and Central America and operates an extensive network in the southern Pacific, although services to Europe are limited.

The selection of Rolls engines for Continental's fleet of 757s is a further coup for the UK manufacturer. More than 80 per cent of airlines operating the 757 power their fleets with the RB211-535.

The number of 535 engines in service is now approaching 600 and Continental is the 47th operator to select them for 757s.