UK tour operator Airtours is to acquire 21 new Airbus A320 series aircraft for its UK and Scandinavian airlines, as it renews its narrowbody fleet and standardises on the CFM International CFM56-5B engine.

The "fleet rollover" is to begin as leasing agreements end, and will be completed by late 2004, says Airtours. The airline will acquire eight A320s and 13 A321s, with 17 aircraft delivered during 2003 and four in 2004 as the existing aircraft - most of which are powered by International Aero Engines V2500s - are returned to lessors.

It is believed that Airtours will order directly from Airbus around a third of the new aircraft which will then be sold to lessors and leased back on delivery. The rest will be acquired from leasing companies with GE Capital Aviation Services seen as leading contender.

Source: Flight International