Andrew Doyle/PARIS

Aeroflot Russian International Airlines (ARIA) is in talks with Airbus and Boeing over a major aircraft deal that would be the first phase of the airline's plans to replace its entire fleet by 2015.

The Russian flag carrier is initially focusing its attention on the Airbus A320 and Boeing Next Generation 737 families, and has told the manufacturers it wants to begin the fleet renewal next year, according to sources close to the talks. ARIA is expected to invite proposals for a new fleet strategy that also covers long-haul services.

But Aeroflot has been hit hard by the Russian financial crisis and doubts remain over how it would finance a major aircraft acquisition.

Eyeing the large potential replacement market in Russia, Airbus and Boeing have been examining ways of bringing the country's aerospace firms into their aircraft programmes. Airbus has a memorandum of understanding with Russian industry covering participation in the proposed A3XX, and Boeing has considered establishing a 737 "Classic" production line in Russia.

ARIA's fleet comprises 123 aircraft, about one-third of which are Western-built, including 11 Airbus A310s, nine of which are leased from Airbus.

The carrier also operates several Boeing types, including two 777-200ERs leased from International Lease Finance, two 767-300ERs and 10 recently delivered 737-400s for European routes. One McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30F is used for freight.

Most of ARIA's aircraft are Ilyushin Il-62s, Il-86s, Tupolev Tu-134s and Tu-154s, which need to be replaced. It has placed orders for 17 Il-96M passenger airliners and three Il-96T freighters.

Source: Flight International