Max Kingsley-Jones/LONDON

Air 2000 is set to become a genuine long-haul airline in 1999 following the signing of a lease deal for delivery of its first dedicated widebodies in the form of the Boeing 767-300ER.

The charter airline, which is based at Luton in the UK, has signed an agreement with GE Capital Aviation Services to take two new General Electric CF6-80C2-powered Boeing 767-300ERs, with an option on a third, on operating leases. The first aircraft will be introduced early in the second quarter of 1999, to operate the airline's long-haul summer programme. The second 767 will be delivered in 2000, while the option is scheduled for 2001.

Air 2000's existing fleet consists of four 180-seat Airbus A320s and 12 233-seat Boeing 757-200s. The latter shares a common type rating with the 767, enabling crews to fly both types. The 767s will be operated to long-haul destinations in Florida, the Carribean and Mexico, for Air 2000's tour operator parent First Choice. These routes are now served mostly by buying capacity on other airlines such as Airtours, Monarch and Leisure International Airlines.

The 767-300ER, which seats around 320-330 passengers in a charter configuration, was chosen over the larger 380-seat Airbus A330-200, which would have offered flightcrew commonality with the A320s. Air 2000 examined the acquisition of A330-200s, but decided on the Boeing twinjet as it was a smaller capacity jump from the 757. Airline sources suggest selection of the 767 does not rule out the A330 in the longer term.

Air 2000 has been examining other new types, including the Boeing 737-800 and stretched 757-300, but has no firm plans for additional acquisitions.


Source: Flight International