GB Airways has followed the lead of its franchise partner, British Airways, and decided to drop its Boeing 737 fleet in favour of the Airbus A320 family, with a deal for up to 14 aircraft.

The airline, which operates franchise flights for BA to North Africa and the western Mediterranean from its London Gatwick base, and from Heathrow, has placed firm orders for nine A320 family aircraft. Options are held on another five. Like BA, GB has selected the International Aero Engines V2500-A5 in a deal which will include full maintenance support, it says.

The first Airbus will be delivered in the second quarter of 2001, and will "probably" be a 159-seat A320, says GB, with deliveries continuing to 2003.

The actual mixture of A320s and 198-seat A321s will be finalised later, depending on growth forecasts. The smaller A319, which the UK national carrier has specified, is not being considered by GB.

GB has an all-Boeing fleet of four 130-seat 737-300s and five 147-seat 737-400s, all but two on operating lease, mostly from International Lease Finance. The 737s, two of which were delivered new earlier this year, will be phased out as the new Airbuses arrive.

GB Airways says that its Airbus order has been arranged independently of BA's recent deal for up to 188 A320s for its regional and overseas divisions. The airline works closely with BA's EuroGatwick (EOG) division, occasionally providing aircraft on short-term swaps.

With BA EOG switching from the 737 to the A320 family, GB's selection of the Airbus narrowbody will enable it to retain commonality in the future.

GB says that, by acquiring the same types as BA, it will "-continue to benefit from centralised engineering and maintenance facilities at Gatwick".

Source: Flight International