Aerolineas Argentinas expects to decide within the next year on acquiring a new standardised fleet of 40 or more narrowbody jets. The airline is currently leasing additional 737-200s.

"We have had initial discussions with both Airbus and Boeing and we're analysing right now our fleet requirements for replacement and growth," says David Cush, Aerolineas chief operating officer. "We're in a very flexible position right now and my thinking is we'll make a decision on the next fleet within 12 months."

The Argentine flag carrier is looking at a new family of aircraft in the 100- to 130-seat range to replace its Boeing MD-80s, 737-200s and Airbus A310-300s. The carrier does not need a narrowbody bigger than 150 seats or with a longer range than its two remaining A310s. It is looking for a "minimum" of 40 aircraft with first delivery in two to three years.

Aircraft types under consideration include the Airbus A318/A319/A320 and competing Boeing 717 and Next Generation 737 family.

In the meantime, Aerolineas is phasing out DC-9s operated by its sister carrier Austral Lineas Aereas and has leased 15 ex-British Airways 737-200Advs from Pegasus Aviation for six years to supplement the 21 operated.

"We have so far taken delivery of three aircraft, one is already flying, two are being modified. We'll receive all their 737s by December 2000. The aircraft are low cycle. They will go straight from BA into our fleet," says Cush.

In December the airline will also take delivery of two A340-300s on a 12-year finance lease as part of a wider deal under which it has already received four ex-Philippine Airlines A340-200s from Airbus Asset Management. Aerolineas has another six larger A340-600s on order for delivery from late 2002, but has the option to convert back to -300s depending on the future of its seven 747-200s.

The airline is investing heavily in implementing a new Sabre reservation, flight scheduling and yield management system. "Very simply this will allow us to run a reliable operation," says Cush.

Aerolineas is already closely aligned with oneworld partner and part owner American Airlines, with which it plans to launch joint codeshare services from September 2000. It has also signed a joint venture cargo agreement with new oneworld member LanChile. "We're continuing to have discussions to see if there is anything on the passenger side that makes sense," adds Cush.

Source: Flight International