Ural fleet plans include A330 or 767 for long-haul

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Ural Airlines is staying on track with its three-year fleet-expansion programme in anticipation of an upswing in passenger traffic.

Over the next two months the carrier is to receive a pair of leased 150-seat Airbus A320s, bringing the number to 14.

Speaking at a briefing in Ekaterinburg, director general Sergei Skuratov said the airline would consider leasing two more of the type this year.

"We have an agreement to take seven new A320s from Airbus in 2012-13 with an option to convert up to three of them into stretched A321s," he says.

"We'll make a final decision about this before next year and then turn to selecting long-haul and regional aircraft types."

Indicating that Ural Airlines has shortlisted the Airbus A330 and Boeing 767 as long-haul candidates, Skuratov adds: "Five examples of one of these types will suffice.

"We'd like to introduce them on direct services to Vladivostok, Thailand and China over two years, starting from 2012."

To serve routes of up to 1,500km, the carrier will require seven regional aircraft from 2011, with the ATR 42-500 turboprop identified as an option.

Ural has a letter of intent for five Sukhoi Superjet 100s. Skuratov says: "We're waiting for them to come off the assembly line."

Following a 12% slump in the first half of 2009, Ural's passenger numbers reached 1.5 million for the full year, a 3.3% increase over 2008.

The airline came close to breaking even. "Signs are that the crisis has bottomed-out," says Skuratov, who expects traffic to grow 15-20% this year.

Apart from its base at Ekaterinburg, the carrier wants to operate from St Petersburg, Moscow and Samara with an emphasis on cross-border charter flights.

Last year Ural Airlines phased out its Ilyushin Il-86s and Tupolev Tu-154Bs while retaining four Tu-154Ms for selected domestic and intra-CIS flights.