Gulf Air appears set to lease regional jets from GECAS

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Middle Eastern carrier Gulf Air appears set to lease regional jets from GECAS under a new tender award which adds further mystery to the carrier's fleet strategy.

Last year the Bahraini government's tender board published an April 2011 document which included an item indicating a $328 million contract award to Bombardier for Gulf Air regional jets.

But that specific item has since been removed from the document in the tender board's files, for reasons which have yet to be clarified.

The board has newly published a similar tender document, dated October 2011, which features an award to GECAS for four regional jets "as interim aircraft".

It does not identify the aircraft type, but indicates that the lease is for three years. The award also carries an identical reference code to the earlier Bombardier item.

Gulf Air is currently using Embraer 170s and 190s - two of each - sourced from other lessors.

Disclosure of the earlier Bombardier contract strongly suggested that Gulf Air had selected the CSeries over the Embraer E-Jet family to meet its long-term regional jet requirement, and an order confirmation had been expected during this week's Bahrain air show.

But Gulf Air, in contrast to previous hints, said yesterday that it had not scheduled any announcement at the show.

Bombardier has 138 firm orders for the CSeries, including 23 attributed to three unidentified customers.