El Al Israel Airlines is working to finalise a deal for the acquisition of a new 125- to 150-seater fleet. The airline, which flies an all-Boeing fleet of 737-200s, 747s, 757s and 767s, is evaluating Boeing's Next Generation 737-700/800 and the Airbus A319/ A320, with the intention to lease or purchase five aircraft. Technical delegations from the two manufacturers had a first round of discussions with El Al earlier this month.

The new aircraft will probably be delivered in 1999, replacing some of El Al's existing aircraft.

The decision to add the 125- to 150-seaters is part of the new El Al strategy to minimise the number of indirect flights to Europe, which are unpopular with passengers.

With the USA providing Israel annually with some $3 billion-worth of support, the US Administration has in the past objected to any move by the national airline to buy non-US aircraft. El Al sources expect a similar reaction if the Airbus option becomes a possibility.

Source: Flight International