Russia's Ural Airlines outlines fleet growth plans

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Russia's Ural Airlines is aiming to increase its foreign fleet to up to 20 narrow and widebodies by 2012 to back up its expansion plan driven by new market opportunities.

The Yekaterinburg-based carrier has five leased Airbus Airbus A320s with a sixth of the type scheduled for delivery next month. Speaking at a press conference, managing director Sergei Skuratov says two more A320s should arrive in May and one A321 in July 2009.

"We've earned a surprisingly good profit in the first three quarters even despite much higher fuel prices," he says. "In 2010, we want to add a couple of A321s plus one A320 to complete phasing out uneconomical Tupolev Tu-154s."

Using new aircraft, Ural Airlines intends to resume direct flights to several European capitals, including one or two frequencies a week to Paris, and introduce services to London.

Skuratov suggests the carrier could also acquire long-range western types, deploying them on Trans-Sibirean routes. "In 2012, we'll have around 20 foreign aircraft including three to five Boeing 767s or A330s," says Skuratov, identifying "unique opportunities" that arise in the long-haul segment.

"One year ago there was no possibility to gain rights to operate on routes served by the [now defunct] AirUnion alliance. We've already begun flying to Bratsk and Khabarovsk with landings in Novosibirsk and soon will launch longer-haul eastbound services from Moscow."