Max Kingsley-Jones/London

BWIA International Airways has selected Boeing's Next Generation 737 to upgrade its fleet and replace its BoeingMD-80s. The carrier has concluded a deal with International Lease Finance (ILFC) for six aircraft.

The Caribbean carrier has selected the 737 over the Airbus A320, and its deal with ILFC covers six 154-seat 737-800s for delivery from November, plus a 737-700 which will be delivered on an interim basis in May. "We need an aircraft in May to replace an MD-80 that we are returning to the lessor," says Conrad Aleong, BWIA's president. The remaining -800s will be delivered by the end of 2000, he adds.

BWIA currently operates five 141-seat MD-80s on services from Trinidad and Tobago to points in the USA including New York and Miami, as well as on inter-Island services. The airline recently set up its own regional division, BWee Express, which will fly 50-seat Bombardier Dash 8-300s on its Island services.

Aleong says the new 737-800s will supplement and eventually replace the MD-80s, and will be able to serve its North American destinations all year round non-stop from Port-of-Spain.

BWIA had signed a five-year lease deal with ILFC for two Airbus A321-100s that were delivered in mid-1996. But these aircraft proved unsuitable for the airline's network as they were unable to operate non-stop services to points such as New York in certain conditions, says Aleong. BWIA sub-leased the Airbuses to Turkish charter airline Air Alfa, but Aleong says the 737-800 deal enables it to get out of the A321s, as the deposits have been transferred.

Aleong says BWIA is moving forward with plans to launch a $50-60 million initial public offering to fund the fleet acquisitions. "We are still preparing the prospectus, but this should be ready to go by May," says Aleong.

Source: Flight International