New Caledonian national carrier Air Caledonie International is working to finalise a deal with Airbus covering the purchase of one A330-200 to replace the A310-300 leased by the airline last year.
Industry sources say the carrier, known as Aircalin, aims to take delivery of the aircraft early in 2003 when the A310 lease expires.
The airline is awaiting French Government approval for a financing package, the sources add. It is unclear if an engine has been chosen.
Aircalin leased the Pratt & Whitney PW4156A-powered A310 from Airbus Industrie Financial Services early last year as its first widebody aircraft. Its arrival coincided with the launch of its first long-haul service, to Osaka in Japan from its Noumea base.
The sources say Aircalin hopes to later add an Airbus A320 to replace its single 126-seat Boeing 737-300. The only other aircraft in its fleet is a 19-seat de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter Series 300, which will be retained.
The 201-seat A310 was leased for three years as an 'interim' measure to see how successful long-haul services would prove. The carrier has been seeking rights for some time to operate to Tokyo's Narita airport instead of Osaka's Kansai and is hopeful of securing permission once a second runway opens at the congested slot-controlled Japanese gateway in May 2002.
Aircalin declines to comment on its A330 plans. Airbus confirms that the airline "has shown interest in the A330-200" and it is "hopeful of concluding a deal for one aircraft in the near future".
Source: Flight International