Airline ready to sign letters of intent for replacement of its Western-built fleet, but is limited to 27 aircraft

Aeroflot Russian Airlines has moved a step closer to finalising the renewal of its fleet of Western airliners and is believed to be favouring the Airbus A320 for its narrowbody requirements, with the Boeing 767 the front runner for its widebody needs.

Board approval for Aeroflot to begin restructuring its 27-strong Western-built fleet (excluding freighters) came on 16 July, with the airline's general director Valery Okulov cleared to sign letters of intent with suppliers - manufacturers and/or leasing companies. According to the airline, its aim is to have the contracts ready for consideration in September.

Aeroflot's Western fleet comprises 11 Airbus A310s, 10 Boeing 737-400s, four 767-300ERs and two 777-200ERs, and the Russian government will not allow it to be expanded beyond 27 aircraft. The airline is believed to be planning the acquisition of around 18 A320s for its medium-haul services to Europe and up to nine 767s for intercontinental flights.

Deliveries are likely to begin in 2004, at a rate of around eight aircraft a year, with some (probably the widebodies) possibly coming from the secondhand market.

Potential offset deals as part of the planned A320 acquisition were discussed by Russian president Vladimir Putin and prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov and their French counterparts earlier this month. Boeing is, however, known to be aggressively trying to persuade Aeroflot to retain the 737.

Aeroflot is aiming to reduce the number of Western types in its passenger fleet to just two and the airline is likely to trade the A310s in as part of the A320 deal. Its fleet of 737-400s will also become surplus to requirements.

Meanwhile, the airline's 51% owned subsidiary Aeroflot-Don, has signed a letter of intent with RSK MiG to take four Tupolev Tu-334s between 2006 and 2010.

Russian carrier KrasAir is finalising negotiations with leasing companies for two secondhand 767s, for delivery by September.

Source: Flight International