Air Canada is drawing up plans to further modernise and expand its fleet of mainline and regional aircraft over the next seven years once the carrier's pilots ratify a new four-year labour agreement.

Ongoing talks are understood to include a top up order for 15 Airbus Industrie A320s and five A319s. At the same time Air Canada's regional subsidiaries are looking to re-equip themselves with between 30 and 50 new Bombardier CRJ200 jets.

Air Canada president and chief executive Robert Milton said earlier this year that the airline could order up to 150 aircraft once the pilots have signed a new contract. The agreement is due to be ratified around the end of the month.

Half the new orders are required as replacements for older aircraft and half for growth, says Jacques Kavafian of Toronto-based Yorkton Securities. Air Canada must replace its 23 older Boeing 767-200s and 44 737-200s at its Canadian Airlines subsidiary over the next seven years.

"Air Canada needs 67 aircraft just to replace these and we believe that it will also look at replacing its own Boeing 747 combis for a total of 70 replacement aircraft," says Kavafian in a research report. He adds that in order to meet growth targets and planned new routes, Air Canada would require an additional 10 aircraft a year over the next seven years.

Air Canada also has to replace its 15 remaining McDonnell Douglas DC-9-30s, which industry sources suggest could be combined with Calgary-based Canadian Regional's requirement to replace its 27 Fokker F-28s. Its other two subsidiaries, Air BC and Nova, each operate five BAE 146s which will need to be replaced at the end of their current lease agreements.

The airline's recent orders have strongly favoured Airbus, with 35 A319s and 34 A320s already in the fleet, while its newly acquired Canadian Airlines subsidiary operates another 13 A320s.

Air Canada still has outstanding orders for five A340-500/600s and four A330-300s and has options on 10 A330s and 20 A340s.

Source: Flight International