JMC eyes 757-300 deal for 2001

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Max Kingsley-Jones/LONDON

Newly formed UK charter airline JMC Airlines is preparing its long-term fleet plans, with Boeing's stretched 757-300 at the top of its shopping list.

JMC will officially launch operations next March, with the formal amalgamation of Flying Colours and Caledonian Airways under a single air operator's certificate. The merger follows the take-over by Flying Colours' tour operator parent Thomas Cook of Caledonian Airways parent Carlson Leisure. The merged airline is linked with German charter airlines Hapag-Lloyd through parent company Preussag.

The implementation of the merger has begun, and will be completed in time for the summer season at the end of March," says JMC Airlines/Flying Colours managing director Terry Soult. Next summer, the airline will operate 28 aircraft - 10 Airbus A320s, 16 757-200s, and two McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30s - putting JMC second in the UK charter airline rankings, behind Britannia, in terms of fleet size, adds Soult.

"We are working on our long term fleet strategy, and evaluating both short and long haul aircraft," says Soult. The airline has phased out the eight Lockheed L-1011 TriStars operated by Caledonian Airways (including four wet-leased from Air Atlanta Icelandic), and will replace them with four leased 757-200s. Much of the third-party flying which occupied the TriStar fleet is also being terminated.

"Our growth will be satisfied by additional 757 capacity, and we are looking at the 280-seat 757-300 to see if it has a place in our operation," says Soult. Discussions have been held with Boeing, but there are some "pricing issues", he adds. If a deal is struck an initial fleet of two aircraft would be acquired, with deliveries beginning "no earlier than Spring 2001", says Soult.

JMC Airlines' relatively small long haul operation employs its two DC-10-30s. "Our parent, JMC Holidays is evaluating 'where we go' with long haul, and this will drive our long haul fleet growth," says Soult.

The Airbus A330-200 and 767-300/400 are prime candidates to replace the DC-10s, says Soult, but there are no near term plans to acquire either twinjets, with the DC-10s retained for at least its next two summer seasons.