Aerolineas Argentinas is looking to lease several Boeing 737-800s to complement the 12 737-700s it has already acquired.

The carrier's new chief commercial officer, Juan Pablo Lafosse, tells ATI during the 2009 ALTA Airline Leaders Forum that Aerolineas aims to complete the renewal of its entire 737 fleet by the end of next year.

Aerolineas early this year acquired 12 737-700s to replace its fleet of 737-200s. Lafosse says the carrier is now looking to lease 737-800s to replace the carrier's 737-500s.

He says Aerolineas has about 12 737-500s but only requires "about six" 737-800s because of significantly higher utilisation rates on new generation 737s. He says Aerolineas has been utilising its 737-700s on average 11 to 12 hours per day compared to only four hours per day for its 737-200s.

Lafosse says Aerolineas aims to receive all six 737-800s next year, allowing it to completely phase out its 737-500 fleet by the end of 2010. He says the carrier is now entertaining proposals on a mix of new and used aircraft.

He adds Aerolineas currently only has two 737-200s in service, compared to about 10 737-200s only three months ago, and will operate its last 737-200 flight on 15 November. The carrier has been able to quickly phase out its 737-200s as it has been taking 737-700s over the last few months at a breakneck pace.

Lafosse says Aerolineas already has six 737-700s in service and the seventh is now in Argentina. He says the last five 737-700s Aerolineas has committed to will all be delivered by February.

Of the 12 737-700s Aerolineas agreed to acquire early this year two have been purchased and 10 are being leased. Originally the aircraft were going to be delivered at a rate of only one per month but Lafosse says "we're speeding that up".

He says the more rapid planned phase-out of the 737-200s has been "quite complex" from a pilot training standpoint. But Aerolineas has been able to quickly train its 737-500 pilots for the 737-700 and its 737-200 pilots initially for the 737-500.

Aerolineas has been mainly using its 737-700s to replace 737-500s on its medium-haul international routes, freeing up the 737-500s to replace 737-200s domestically. Lafosse says 737-700s are now operating from Buenos Aires to Bogota, Lima, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Santiago. He says the carrier also plans to use 737-700s to resume services to La Paz in Bolivia and Cuzco in Peru in the second half of next year.

In the case of Bogota he says the 737-700 has allowed Aerolineas to begin serving the Colombian capital on a non-stop basis. Previously it served Bogota with a stop in Lima. Aerolineas still serves Lima daily but now also has four weekly non-stop flights to Bogota.

Lafosse says the introduction of Boeing 737-700s has already driven a significant improvement in Aerolineas' overall operation. Lafosse says the carrier has begun overhauling its operations as part of a "transformation plan" that includes "the whole company - maintenance, operations and revenue management".

He adds on-time performance has improved from 50% to 80% since the first 737-700 was placed into service. "Our target is to get to 88% to 90% by the end of the year. It's a huge change," Lafosse says.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news