Air Seychelles takes first A330 on wet lease from Etihad

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Air Seychelles has received the first of two Airbus A330s under a sub wet-lease agreement with Etihad, though it plans to operate both jets on dry leases by January 2013.

The first A330 (MSN 751) is being leased by ILFC to Etihad, which is in turn sub wet leasing the jet to Air Seychelles through to May 2013.

However, Air Seychelles expects to end the wet lease prematurely once its pilots have completed training for the type. "We just gave ourselves a little bit of leeway," a spokesman for the Seychellois flag carrier tells Flightglobal.

"The reason why we had to do the wet lease was because we've switched from Boeing [for the long-haul fleet] to Airbus, and it's going to take six to nine months for our pilots to become fully qualified."

With a delivery date of January 2013, the second A330 is expected to enter service on an immediate dry lease. Both A330s were previously operated by Jet Airways, and both will sport the Air Seychelles livery.

Abu Dhabi-based Etihad acquired a 40% stake in Air Seychelles in January, injecting sorely needed financial support into the ailing flag carrier.

At the time, James Hogan, Etihad chief executive, outlined plans for the two carriers to extend codeshare arrangements and achieve synergies through shared training and procurement. Air Seychelles also completed a management restructuring in May.

The acquisition has already seen Etihad sub wet lease one of its Airbus A320s to Air Seychelles on flights to Mauritius. That aircraft, which is still painted in Etihad's livery, recently had its lease extended through to July 2013.

"We want to continue that as long as possible, but it may be that eventually we have to convert it to dry lease," the spokesman says. "In which case we'll have to re-look at our network strategy, in terms of where else we can use the A320 besides Mauritius.

"In terms of our fleet planning for the next three to five years, we are considering the possibility of having an A320 come on our books, but we have no firm plans as yet."

The new A330 will initially be deployed on flights to Johannesburg and Abu Dhabi, while the arrival of the second A330 is expected to see Beijing added to the route network.

The Seychellois flag carrier may also consider sub wet leasing its A330s back to their original source, allowing Etihad to take over high-growth routes such as Munich and Mumbai. Such capacity re-allocation would be "win-win" for both airlines, the spokesman says.