Aeroflot has signed a letter of intent with Airbus Industrie to acquire around 30 aircraft. Although the deal had not been confirmed as Flight International closed for press, it is believed to cover mainly the A320 family, although some long-haul aircraft are also involved.

The reports emanated from a senior government source in Paris following a meeting between the prime ministers of France and Russia attended by Aeroflot's general director, Valeri Okulov, and senior Airbus officials.

The airline has been discussing the acquisition of A319s and A320s with Airbus and majority shareholder EADS since mid-2000. The A318 is also likely to be included, to replace Tu-134s and Tu-154s on European services. The airline already operates Boeing 737, 767 and 777s and Airbus A310s.

Aeroflot has come under considerable pressure to add new Russian types to its fleet, but has encountered major difficulties in raising the finance. As a result the ready availability of finance for Western aircraft is understood to have been a prime factor in the talks.

Completion of the deal will be a serious blow for Russian industry and is likely to sharpen interest in talks between Tupolev, Ilyushin and Yakovlev to set up a single integrated holding company for their civil aviation activities. The three manufacturers say they are committed to merging design, production and sales activities ahead of forming a single legal entity.

Source: Flight International