Max Kingsley-Jones/LONDON

AER LINGUS IS evaluating the various 180-seat (two-class seating) aircraft types, with a view to introducing a new aircraft in 1997, but more likely in 1998.

The airline says that it is in "-the early days of looking at the options available". The likely choice will be between the Airbus Industrie A321, Boeing 757-200 and, possibly, the Boeing 737-800. The A321 and 757 typically seat around 185 passengers in a two-class layout, while the new 737-800 will seat 160 passengers in two classes, or 189 in a one-class layout.

The short-haul Aer Lingus fleet includes four British Aerospace 146-300s (110 seats), five 117-seat 737-500s and six 156-seat 737-400s (all two-class).

For its transatlantic services, four 330-seat Airbus A330-300s are leased from International Lease Finance, and the airline is evaluating aircraft able to slot between the two size categories. While the majority of its short-haul fleet is Boeing, the selection of the A321 would offer the airline commonality with the A330, which have almost identical flight decks.

Aer Lingus has not decided on which acquisition method to use for any new aircraft, and has previously used a mixture of operating and financial leases.

Meanwhile, the airline reports strong growth in its business traffic for the first quarter of 1996, with passenger traffic increasing by 15%. Growth of 11% has been experienced on the UK/Ireland routes, while on routes between Ireland and Continental Europe it has achieved 30%.

Source: Flight International