Gulf Air leasing four 777-300ERs to replace A340s

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Middle Eastern carrier Gulf Air is to acquire four Boeing 777-300ERs which it will introduce on routes including London Heathrow from March.

The Bahrain-based airline had been considering introducing larger-capacity types such as the 777 or Airbus A340-600.

Speaking to ATI at a briefing in London today, Gulf Air chief executive Bjorn Naf said the carrier would take all four 312-seat 777s this year, and lease them for around three years.

While Naf declines to identify the source of the aircraft, Gulf Air has already leased two Airbus A330s from India's Jet Airways, which has also been seeking to lease out several 777-300ERs.

The 777s would potentially serve as a replacement for a few of Gulf Air's current A340-300s. Naf says, if that option is pursued, some A340s could be removed from the fleet this year.

gulf air a330-200 keith blinkow/airteamimages.com 
 © Keith Blinkow/AirTeamImages.com

Gulf Air will put the 777 into service on the Heathrow route and Naf says the airline is considering using them on other popular routes such as Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. It is also looking at the possibility of serving the US east coast with the type.

Naf admits that the fleet plan for the airline is "in flux" and that fine details are still being worked out.

Gulf Air expects to receive five Airbus A320s this year, which it expects will replace at least four of its current A320s.

It will also acquire four A330s - one new and three ex-Middle East Airlines airframes - of which two will replace current jets and two will be used for expansion. In total the airline expects to receive 13 aircraft over 2009, primarily for replacement.

Gulf Air has 20 A330s on order as well as 15 A320s.

Naf says the carrier will take its first ordered A330 in the third quarter of 2010, giving the company about 18 months to improve cabin seating. But he adds that the airline is in discussions with Airbus to bring later widebody deliveries forward.

Gulf Air also has up to 24 Boeing 787s on order. While 787 deliveries have "moved", Naf says Gulf Air is hoping they will be brought back on track by the scheduled arrival date of 2016.