Gilbert Sedbon/PARIS

FRENCH DOMESTIC and regional carrier Air Inter is looking for buyers for its 400-seat Airbus A330-300 long-haul aircraft. The airline's management considers that the aircraft is "too big" for its needs as it repositions itself to become the Air France Group's low-cost European operation.

Interest has been expressed by Philippine Airlines, which has sent a team to France for evaluation, and other unnamed Far Eastern airlines. One of the aircraft has already been leased to Aer Lingus for seven years.

Competition at Paris-Orly from a growing number of foreign airlines, and independent French operators such as Air Liberte, AOM, Euralair, Brit Air and Air Littoral (all using smaller aircraft), is being blamed for the sale. Air Inter's decision has provoked a sharp reaction from the pilots' union, which has called the move "absurd" and suggested that the A330's low operational costs, especially at peak periods, make it an indispensable tool for the carrier's developing European activities.

Air Inter ordered 14 A330-300s in 1988 at a cost of $100 million each. The first four are in service, but the airline has served notice to Airbus Industrie that it wants to postpone delivery of the remaining ten until after 1998, pending a re-evaluation of its requirements.

Source: Flight International