Garuda Indonesia will begin a competition this year to select its first regional jets.

The airline hopes to add around 18 sub-hundred seat aircraft to its fleet by 2015 to serve low-density high-yield feeder routers within Indonesia, says CEO Emirsyah Satar in an interview with ATI's sister publication Airline Business. A decision will be made this year, he adds.

The company will be studying both Bombardier CRJs and Embraer E-Jets, he adds. While it has not ruled out looking at the Mitsubishi MRJ regional jet, he believes that its entry into service may not meet Garuda's timeline. Jets also make more sense than turboprops, he says.

"Regional jets will give us a lot of autonomy as there are fast-growing cities within Indonesia that require direct connections. Say if you want to fly from Balikpapan and Banjarmasin - it is tough to operate larger aircraft, but a regional jet would fit such low-density and high-yield routes," says Satar.

Garuda hopes to have a fleet of 153 aircraft by 2015, almost double the 86 aircraft that it now operates according to Flightglobal's ACAS database. Apart from the regional jets, these will include 10 Boeing 777-300ERs, 18-20 Airbus A330s and four dedicated freighters. The rest will be Boeing 737-800s.

The airline is likely to order additional 777s and A330s in the coming years as it grows its medium and long-haul network, says Satar. "The yield is much better on the newer aircraft and that is what the airline is focusing on," says Satar.

The airline hopes to phase out its older Boeing 737-300/400/500 narrowbodies and Boeing 747-400s in the coming years as these are "either not as fuel-efficient or carry too few passengers", he adds.

In the second phase of its fleet growth, Satar says that carrier will assess the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350. These are likely to replace its older 777-200s and Boeing 767-300ERs. The airline is not likely to look at either the Airbus A380 or Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental as they are "too big for Garuda's requirements", says Satar.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news