Russia's Tatarstan Airlines to replace 737s with A319s

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Russia's Tatarstan Airlines has taken delivery of a leased Airbus A319 and is planning to introduce more of the type.

The carrier expects to lease a second A319 before August and a further three in 2012.

Speaking in Kazan, Tatarstan managing director Ruslan Shakirov said the aircraft would replace five Boeing 737s, which are scheduled for withdrawal in 2013.

In the longer term, he envisioned increasing the carrier's Airbus fleet to at least 10 aircraft, tentatively including A320s. To reinforce its regional capacity, Tatarstan Air will also take delivery of two Bombardier CRJ200s in the autumn.

Flight director Valery Portnov said eight cabin crews had already undergone preliminary training for the A319 in Lithuania and Finland with a final course to be provided and paid by Airbus in Toulouse.

Tatarstan considered taking modern Boeing variants but Shakirov said the choice of A319s appeared more attractive from the financial standpoint.

Lufthansa Technik is to perform heavy maintenance and Bulgar Air will carry out line inspection on the newly-acquired aircraft until Tatarstan completes modernisation of a hangar at Kazan airport in 2012.

The carrier will initially use the A319s for cross-border charter services under an agreement with international tour operator Pegas Touristik, said Tatarstan's transport minister Lenar Safin.

"Additional aircraft will be deployed on domestic routes alongside CRJ200 regional jets with a view to adopting a hub-and-spoke business model eventually," Safin said.

"Kazan airport's location, improved infrastructure and a 42% growth in passenger throughput last year have convinced us that it is a feasible goal."