GECAS leases ex-Mexicana A318s to Avianca

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GECAS has leased the 10 Airbus A318s previously operated by Mexicana to Colombia's Avianca.

A GECAS spokesman confirms the leasing company has successfully remarketed the 10 A318s that were on lease to Mexicana and the aircraft are in the process of being prepared for re-delivery to Avianca. The Colombian carrier plans to take all 10 A318s next year and use them to replace its fleet of Fokker 100s, which are primarily used on domestic routes.

The A318 will be a new aircraft type for Avianca, but the carrier already operates a fast-growing fleet of A319s and A320s.

ATI and Flightglobal reported earlier this month that Avianca had accelerated its plans for phasing out its Fokker 100 fleet and was now expecting to replace all 15 of its Fokker 100s in 2011. Avianca at the time said its Fokker 100s would be primarily replaced by 10 additional A320 family aircraft that it was in the process of securing from the second-hand market, but declined to disclose the exact type of aircraft or the source.

With GECAS confirming the A318 deal with Avianca, it is now clear the Colombian carrier will replace most of its Fokker 100 fleet with A318s. The remaining portion of the Fokker fleet will most likely be replaced with A319s from Avianca's outstanding order with Airbus.

Avianca-TACA also has been looking at potentially operating some of its Embraer E-190s on Colombian routes now served with Fokker 100s. Avianca-TACA currently only operates E-190s from TACA's hubs in Central America.

The airline group is now looking at moving some of the E-190s in the existing TACA fleet or from TACA's outstanding order to the Avianca unit but is no longer looking at acquiring additional E-190s. Avianca-TACA had been looking at potentially ordering more E-190s - either by exercising existing options or placing a new order - as part of its study of potential Fokker 100 replacements. According to Flightglobal's ACAS database, TACA now operates five E-190s with another three on firm order plus 15 options.

Avianca was originally looking at waiting until about 2014, when new-generation 100-seat aircraft will be available, to replace its Fokker 100s. The carrier began evaluating last year the Bombardier CSeries, Mitsubishi MRJ and Sukhoi Superjet for this requirement with a selection originally expected this year.

Avianca will continue to evaluate these aircraft but will wait at least a couple of years before acquiring new 100-seat aircraft. Avianca could still acquire new 100-seaters in 2016 or 2017, when its newly acquired A318s come off lease. Sister carrier Avianca Brazil, previously known as OceanAir, also plans to look at new 100-seaters to replace its 14 Fokker 100s, which it plans to continue operating for two to three more years.

With Mexicana's A318s re-leased to Avianca, nearly all of Mexicana's leased A320 fleet has now been remarketed. AerCap, for example, confirmed to ATI last month that it had successfully remarketed the five A320s it had leased to Mexicana. AerCap said the five aircraft, which included three new A320s which were only delivered to Mexicana in 2009 and in the first half of 2010, were mostly remarketed within the North American market.

Prior to ceasing operations in August, Mexicana operated about 50 A320 family aircraft. At this point only the nine A320s owned by Mexicana seem to be available to the carrier's new owners, which are trying to re-launch the carrier with an all-A320 fleet consisting of 30 aircraft.