Brazilian carrier Gol has secured leases covering the 14 Boeing 767s needed to support the restored long-haul network of its Varig operation by next summer.
Budget carrier Gol acquired VRG Linhas Aereas, which operates the Varig brand, is rolling out a number of newly-restored long-haul routes.
Under the plans Varig started by operating a mix of Boeing 737-300s on domestic routes and 767-300ERs on its long-haul services.
It has now taken delivery of the first two of five Boeing 737-800s – which are leased directly from the market rather than being taken from Gol’s 737-800 order backlog – to bolster its 737 fleet.
Speaking during a press conference in London on 30 October to mark the carrier’s return to the London Heathrow-Sao Paulo route, Varig commercial director Lincoln Amano said that by the end of this year the airline expects to operate 14 Boeing 737-300s and five 737-800s. This fleet will gradually see more of the older -300s returned and replaced with newer 737-800s.
Amano says that the carrier will be operating 10 Boeing 767-300s this year and the figure will rise to 14 next year.
Gol president Constantino de Oliveira Jr adds: “We have signed already for the 14 [Boeing 767] aircraft. That will be enough to operate all the European destinations, plus Mexico City and the US routes.”
He says these aircraft are spread across a number of lessors and adds that Varig is in talks about adding more of the type as it looks at the possibility of going twice-daily on some key routes.
“The demand for [767-300s] is huge, so it is difficult,” acknowledges de Oliveira. “But we are able to do it because of the prestige of the Varig brand and the strong balance sheet of Gol.”
Varig is standardising its long-haul operations around the 767 and will upgrade these aircraft. “After we have done a facelift, we will be able to continue operating the 767s for another five to seven years,” says de Oliveira.
Gol is looking at aircraft the size of the Airbus A350 or Boeing 787, he says: “We are in discussions with manufacturers over options for new aircraft. We are starting to talk to Airbus and Boeing about the A350 and 787.”
But he says these aircraft would be unlikely to join the fleet before 2015, so there is no immediate rush to make a decision.