Aerolineas Argentinas plans to add six Airbus A330/A340s aircraft next year as part of the next phase of its ongoing widebody expansion and replacement programme.

Chief commercial officer Juan Pablo Lafosse says Aerolineas is planning to add three A340s in March, which will be used to resume service to Mexico City and New York. He says the carrier is also now seeking three A330s for delivery in July or August to support further expansion of Aerolineas' long-haul network.

Lafosse says Aerolineas hopes to launch service to Paris in the third quarter of 2011 and increase capacity on its existing routes to Barcelona and Rome. The carrier aims to use its first three A330s to serve Mexico City and New York, freeing up the three A340s being added earlier in the year to expand its trans-Atlantic operation.

Aerolineas Argentinas currently operates six A340-200/300s and two 747-400s, but has been looking for some time at potentially adding more fuel efficient A330s.

The carrier has so far found it difficult to secure A330s in the second-hand market as the type remains in high demand. But Aerolineas is confident it can eventually secure A330s as it aims to retire its last two 747-400s in the fourth quarter of next year and its six A340-200/300s in 2012.

Lafosse says Aerolineas' new medium-term widebody fleet plan envisions 15 A330/A340s by the end of 2014. He says the ideal mix would include 12 A330s and only three A340s.

Over the last year the carrier also has been evaluating potentially acquiring Boeing 787s. Lafosse told CAO in February that Aerolineas was in the process of issuing requests for proposals for new-generation widebodies for delivery from 2011. At the time Lafosse believed securing 15 early 787 delivery slots was a feasible option and said the carrier was not yet considering A350s.

But at last week's ALTA 2010 Airline Leadership Forum in Panama Lafosse says that Aerolineas is now instead looking at acquiring new-generation medium-size widebodies from 2014 or 2015 and in the interim aims to acquire A330s to fill its widebody requirement. As Aerolineas is no longer trying to secure early 787 delivery slots, the evaluation of potential new medium-size widebody aircraft has been widened to include the A350.

Source: Commercial Aviation Online