Paul Duffy/MOSCOW

AEROFLOT RUSSIAN International Airlines (ARIA) has confirmed that it is to lease ten Boeing 737-400s to serve European routes, while officials also say that the airline will take two additional Boeing 767-300ERs to shore up its transatlantic services.

Negotiations for the aircraft are now in the final stages and Boeing is believed to have increased its staff in Moscow by up to 20 in preparation for the deal.

Deliveries of the 737s are to begin in December, to replace Tupolev Tu-154Bs and Ms. The new aircraft will be used to augment passenger services on routes to Western Europe, as well as to some CIS destinations.

The aircraft will need to achieve a daily utilisation rate of at least 9h to cover their lease costs, say ARIA sources. The Russian Government will not be providing funding for the 737 acquisition, and so the airline must now give priority to passenger requirements.

It had been indicated previously that ARIA would order the Tupolev Tu-204 to replace its Tu-154s, but the airline has had considerable problems with the Perm PS-90A engine on its Ilyushin Il-96-300 fleet, making it reluctant to acquire the Tu-204 with that engine. The Russian avionics on the Il-96 have also given trouble.

ARIA might be willing to take the Tu-204 equipped with the Rolls-Royce RB.211 and Western avionics, but efforts to resolve the difficulties encountered with the Russian-PS-90A-powered version have pushed back the more-marketable Western-equipped model's development and certification.

The airline's current Western fleet includes six Airbus Industrie A310-300s, one McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 freighter and two 767-300ERs, the latter leased from GPA. Four ex-Delta A310-300s are to be delivered in June, on lease from Airbus, and ARIA says that it will take a further two 767-300ERs by the end of the year, to operate on transatlantic routes.

Source: Flight International