Max Kingsley-Jones/LONDON

TAP AIR PORTUGAL has selected Airbus Industrie to supply its future short-haul fleet, which will eventually make it an all-Airbus operator. The airline is to bolster its Airbus single-aisle fleet with at least 22 more aircraft, a mix of A319s and A320s.

Airbus says that TAP has signed a letter of intent for up to 26 Airbus A319s, including 18 firm orders and eight options, plus a further four A319s "on lease". Up to five of the firmly ordered aircraft can be taken as A320s. TAP will not confirm these figures, claiming that it will receive 22 Airbuses, including both the A319 and A320, all directly from Airbus.

Deliveries will be made between December 1997 and June 2000. TAP says that the new aircraft will be acquired on 12-year financial leases, and the firm contract should be signed by December. No engine selection has been announced, but a decision is expected soon.

According to TAP, the financing package was a key factor in the aircraft selection. When evaluating bids for the order, Boeing and Airbus made "very attractive offers", says the airline, but that of the European consortium was more favourable. Airbus offered "backstop" finance, which minimises the airline's financial risk.

Another factor in the selection was commonality. TAP already operates a significant number of Airbuses, including five A310s, six A320s and four A340-300s, alongside 17 Boeing 737-200/300s, and five Lockheed TriStar 500s. The six A320s (all CFM International CFM56-powered) are on operating lease from GATX CL Air and Bavaria Flug.

The 737s will be retired and replaced by the new aircraft, while the TriStars are being sold (Flight International, 30 October-5 November), which will make the airline an all-Airbus operator.

Source: Flight International