The reclusive Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan's national carrier, Druk Air, is in discussions with Airbus to acquire a third A319 to cater to strong growth in demand.
Sangey Tenzing, managing director of the Paro-based carrier, told Flight International that it is hoped the third A319 can be delivered by Airbus around 2010 or 2011.
© Nicholas Ionides
"We are talking with Airbus," he says. "We have yet to get the [production] slot we would like but we are hopeful."
He says Airbus is offering delivery around 2014 but is trying to find an earlier delivery position for the airline. A third A319 would be used to boost services on existing routes and perhaps to add new routes in future.
The airline introduced its two A319s in 2004 to replace two BAe 146s, which were finally sold late last year to StarPeru.
Druk has in the past few years added Dhaka in Bangladesh and Gaya in India to its limited route network, which also extends to Delhi and Kolkata in India, Kathmandu in Nepal and Bangkok in Thailand. It has also been increasing services to existing destinations such as Bangkok as demand has increased steadily.
Last year Druk carried more than 120,000 passengers, up from around 60,000 in 2004, and Sangey Tenzing says the airline has been profitable for two consecutive years.
Druk is the only airline serving Bhutan, which effectively limits the number of foreigners who visit by requiring them to spend a minimum amount of US dollars per day. Its Paro base has the only airport in the country and it is a challenging one for operations, as it is at 7,335ft (2,240m) above sea level and surrounded by high mountains.