Romania's Tarom to standardise jet fleet

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New SkyTeam member Tarom is seeking to standardise its jet fleet on Airbus A320 or Boeing 737 family aircraft with a selection of one type expected this year.

Tarom chief Ruxandra Luciana Brutaru acknowledges the Romanian carrier currently has "a very awkward mix" of Airbus A318s and Boeing 737s that "makes no sense". She says as part of a fleet simplification plan Tarom has been looking at replacing its A318s with 737 family aircraft or replacing its 737s with A320 family aircraft.

"One of the key objectives of the airline for the next year as part of our strategy side is to simplify the fleet. As we are a very small airline we have to make sure our costs are at the bottom. Simplifying the fleet is a very important aspect of this," Brutaru told Flighglobal on the sidelines of yesterday's SkyTeam 10th anniversary celebration event in New York.

According to Flightglobal's ACAS database, Tarom's narrowbody jet fleet currently consist of four A318s, four 737-300s, four 737-700s and three 737-800s. The A318s and 737-800s are the carrier's newest additions, with the A318s being delivered in 2006 and 2007 and the 737-800s arriving in 2008 and early 2009.

Brutaru says a selection of Airbus or Boeing as Tarom's future exclusive supplier of jets should be made "within the next couple of months".

"We're in the process of making the final decision," she says. "We'll try to simplify the fleet and stick to one manufacturer."

She adds other manufacturers - such as Bombardier, Embraer or Sukhoi - are not being considered. She says when it comes time to acquire replacements for its A318s or 737s, Tarom will "probably go with a mix" of leases and purchases.

Tarom also operates a regional fleet consisting of seven ATR 42-500 and two ATR 72-500 turboprops. She says the carrier plans to continue operating turboprops and Tarom will look at acquiring new ATR 42/72-600s "if we are sure the product fits our need".

While the carrier's ATR 42s are all 10 to 13 years old, Tarom only added ATR 72s last year. Tarom is now evaluating how the 70-seat turboprop is performing in its network with the view of possibly acquiring more although any new acquisition would likely involve the new ATR 72-600 model rather than more ATR 72-500s. The -600 is scheduled to enter service next year.

Brutaru sees a continuing need for turboprops in Tarom's fleet to access short runways and operate short sectors. On some short routes Tarom now operates a mix of turboprops and jets depending on the time of day. Brutaru says this mix now adequately meets demand and she does not see the carrier shifting A318 flights to 70-seat turboprops as it ponders replacing A318s with larger 737s.

Tarom also operates two Airbus A310s but Brutaru says "we hope to get rid of them in the shortest period because they don't really fit our fleet". The A310s are now used for charters and some scheduled routes, including Bucharest-Tel Aviv, which could be operated by narrowbodies.

Brutaru does not see any need for Tarom to operate widebodies in the future as larger SkyTeam members can adequately cover the long-haul market. Tarom formally joins SkyTeam at the end of this week.