AIR INDIA IS to wet-lease five 200/250-seat aircraft to advance its expansion plans.

With effect from December, two long-range Lockheed L1011-500 TriStars and one Airbus A310-300 will be leased from Antigua-based Caribjet, and two more A310-300s from Air Club International, of Montreal, Canada.

The new contract includes the extension of leases on two A310s, which are already in operation with the Indian flag carrier. Air India had also wanted to add three 400-seaters to replace six older Boeing 747-200Bs, but it received no offers. Three 747-200Bs will, nevertheless, be withdrawn.

Five concerns bid for the wet-lease contract. According to Air India, Airbus Industrie and General Electric Capital Services were unable to provide a full complement of operating crew, while McDonnell Douglas could not meet the required delivery.

The TriStars will be used on nine direct services from Delhi and Bombay to Europe, including two new city routes - to Amsterdam and Brussels - replacing the existing 747 frequencies. The released 747s will in turn be used to upgrade its service to South Africa, eliminating the stop at Dar-es-Salaam.

At the same time, the new wet-leased aircraft will enable the introduction of a service to Tel Aviv in Israel, non-stop flights to Singapore, and the extension of its Nairobi service to Entebbe and Dares-Salaam.

The A310-300 will also replace the leased Ilyushin IL-62M service to Moscow.

Source: Flight International