Gol to take nine 737-800s next year, keep 767s

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Brazil's Gol plans to only expand its fleet by four aircraft next year as five of its nine Boeing 737-800 deliveries are earmarked as replacement rather than growth aircraft.

Gol's 2011 fleet plan has the carrier ending the year with 40 737-700s and 75 737-800s, compared to 40 737-700s and 71 737-800s at the start of the year. Gol CFO Leonardo Pereira tells ATI the carrier is slated to take nine new aircraft in 2011 - all 737-800s - but will return five of its older 737-800s.

While the size of Gol's fleet will grow less than 4%, Pereira says capacity will be up significantly more as the average aircraft size and average daily utilisation will increase. The average aircraft size will increase on a year-over-year basis as Gol is only completing the phase out of its smaller 737-300s in 2010. Periera says the last 737-300, which the carrier previously said was slated to be retired in August, is now expected to exit the fleet in the fourth quarter.

Pereira says Gol's 2011 fleet plan also envisions keeping its six 767s. The carrier tried to return all 14 of its 767s after dropping long-haul services in 2008. But after only being able to negotiate early returns for six of its initial fleet of 14 767s Gol has been able to find profitable homes for the remaining six aircraft in the charter and sublease markets.

Pereira says two of Gol's 767s are now subleased, including one to Ryan International Airlines and one to Brazil's Puma Air. The Ryan aircraft is dry leased and used by the US carrier for military passenger charters while the Puma Air aircraft is wet leased and used by Puma for flights between Brazil and Angola.

The other four are now operating charters from Brazil and Argentina, mainly to the Caribbean and the USA. Gol has refurbished its 767s and reconfigured the aircraft with 255 all-economy seats. "We have a very low cost per seat," Pereira says, adding it is more cost effective putting the 767s in the charter market than grounding them altogether.

Pereira says the international charter market in Brazil has been booming "as the economy in Brazil is so strong" and the strength of Brazil's currency is allowing more Brazilians to take their holidays overseas. He says Gol plans to continue operating 767s in the charter market through at least next year. "We've had very strong demand even in the off peak months," Pereira says, referring to Gol's 767 charter operation.