Andrew Doyle/MUNICH


SAirGroup has taken a step towards standardising the fleets of its charter airline affiliates on the Boeing 767-300ER after leasing subsidiary Flightlease placed an order for up to eight of the twinjets.

The aircraft will be operated by Balair CTA, Sobelair, LTU and Air Europe, part of the Swiss company's European Leisure Group.

The four firm 767 orders are valued at $450 million and options have been taken on a similar number of aircraft. All will be powered by Pratt & Whitney PW4000s and will share an identical technical specification, although cabin configurations may differ, depending on the operator.

Sobelair, the charter subsidiary of Sabena, 49%-owned by SAirGroup, will receive the first two Flightlease 767s in March and May 2000. These will replace older 767s.

Balair CTA, based in Switzerland and wholly owned by SAir, will take the third and fourth aircraft in the second half of next year.

The Swiss charter carrier operates two A310-300s leased from International Lease Finance but these will be replaced this year by two 767-300ERs from Air Europe, after the Italian carrier takes delivery of two Boeing 777-200s. The Air Europe 767s will be operated by Balair for a year until the newly ordered Flightlease 767s are delivered. The A310s are to be leased to Oman Air from late this year.

German holiday airline LTU has transferred its Boeing MD-11s to SAirGroup subsidiary Swissair and has a fleet mainly of 757s, 767s and Airbus A330s. Austrian airline Lauda Air, which uses 767s and 777s for long-haul routes, is also a member of the European Leisure Group, as is Crossair, which operates some short-haul charters.

The 767-300ER will become standard within the group for long-haul charters, particularly to the US East Coast, says SAirGroup. The company says the 757 then becomes a natural choice for shorter, less-dense routes because it shares a common flightdeck with the 767. Air Europe and Lauda will continue to operate their 777s, while LTU has no plans to dispose of its A330s, says SAirGroup.

Source: Flight International