Croatia Airlines has placed an order to buy six Airbus A319s in a move towards a complete renewal and expansion of its fleet. The airline has also placed options on six aircraft, which can be taken up as any type in the A320 family. No engine choice has yet been made.

The first A319 is to be delivered in January 1998, and will be furnished for 42 business-class passengers, and 90 in economy class. From 1 June, the airline plans to introduce one A320 on a three-and-a-half-year dry lease from Airbus, in response to growth in business and tourism in Croatia.

According to Croatia Airlines, the A320 and A319s will be operated on new and well-established longer routes in the airline's network, as well as to airports where noise requirements restrict use of the airline's fleet of ex-Lufthansa Boeing 737-200s. Airbus adds that the aircraft's 5,550km (3,000nm) range allows the A319 to be flown on Croatia's longest routes, such as those to Copenhagen and Moscow.

Croatia is planning to replace its fleet of five 737-200s, three AI(R) ATR 42 turboprops and one Cessna 310R by 2005. By then it hopes to have a fleet of six short- range aircraft, between ten and 15 medium-range types and between two and five long-range aircraft, having gradually sold its existing jet-powered fleet "in the next four to five years", it says.

The airline says that it plans "-to develop into a medium-sized European carrier", linking Croatia to Australia, other parts of Europe, the Far East, the Middle East, North America and West Africa. "Our aspirations and their realisation are closely linked with the revival of the Croatian economy," says the airline.

Croatia is planning to introduce new routes to Athens, Beirut, Dubai, Kiev, Madrid and Milan, as well as increasing frequencies on its existing network. The airline is now negotiating with Alitalia and Spanish national carrier Iberia on possible codesharing on routes to Italy and Spain.

Source: Flight International