British Airways subsidiary Comair has concluded a fleet renewal evaluation which will see its six leased Boeing 727-200s replaced by new generation narrowbodies from next year.

The BA Comair board is to decide on the fleet on 4 September, when the carrier's latest financial results will also be released. Managing director Piet van Hoven says the airline has been studying later generation Boeing 737s, Airbus A320s and Boeing MD-82s, but will not say if the plan is to acquire new or second-hand aircraft. The carrier is likely to opt for a mix of purchase, finance- and operating leases, says financial director Glenn Orsmond.

BA Comair's 727-200s are mainly used on the Johannesburg to Cape Town route and are "dry" leased from Johannesburg-based jetliner leasing company Safair. It is understood one of BA Comair's major considerations is the need to reduce fuel consumption, while the 727s overall operating costs are also a problem.

In addition, it is widely expected that South Africa will be brought in line with ICAO noise and emission regulations when the country's parliament passes a Green Paper imposing compliance by 2010.

None of BA Comair's fleet of six 727s and 10 Boeing 737-200s are Stage 3 compliant. Van Hoven says the airline will consider replacing its 737s when ICAO regulations come into force. "The regulations have not been promulgated yet, and we expect there to be quite a long lead-time," he says.

Source: Flight International