Airbus and Boeing asked to provide proposals for four narrowbodies, while flag carrier also seeks turboprops

Azerbaijan Airlines has invited Airbus and Boeing to submit proposals to supply four narrowbody aircraft for its fleet modernisation. The flag carrier is also looking at acquiring five turboprops for domestic and regional services.

Azerbaijan Airlines' fleet comprises two Boeing 727-200s and two 757-200s in addition to five Tupoloev Tu-134Bs, threeTu-154Bs, three Tu-154Ms and two Yakovlev Yak-40s.

The airline has been undertaking a "slow phasing out" of Soviet-era aircraft since 1996, having already retired eight Yak-40s and four Tupolevs. Jahangir Askerov, director general of state-owned aviation holding company Azal, says that after negotiations with Boeing the carrier has sent the US manufacturer a letter of intent to purchase four 737-700 or -800 aircraft. The airline has not discounted an Airbus purchase, however. "If Airbus came to us with a better offer for the A321, we could buy that instead," he says. Askerov says that the carrier plans to finalise an order by year-end.

The aircraft would be used to increase frequencies to Dubai, Istanbul and Paris, and support its present 727 and 757 services. The narrowbodies could also be deployed on new short-haul routes from Baku to points in Iran, Kazahkstan, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, says Askerov.

Askerov adds that the airline is studying smaller oil exploration destinations around the Caspian sea, but not all airports in the region have the infrastructure to handle jets. The airline will acquire five turboprops for this role and has had preliminary talks with ATR and Bombardier for 50-seat aircraft. The airline will also expand services from the country's second city, Gyangzha.

The Azerbaijan government has approved a $200 million investment in the airline, partly due to the intervention of the country's president, Heyday Aliev, who is an aviation enthusiast. The country has also received $30 million from the Export Credit Guarantee Development bank to upgrade Baku's cargo terminal to support Lufthansa Cargo's plans to use it as a regional hub.

Source: Flight International