Gill Airways is close to completing a deal to take Fokker 100s to enable it to expand its franchise operations for Air France in 1999. The airline is looking to acquire either Fokker 100s or British Aerospace 146/Avro RJs, but says it has a clear preference for the Dutch twinjet.

"There has been a perception that Fokker 100s are hard to come by," says the airline, which is why it widened its search to include the BAe types, but is now confident it will secure its preferred choice.

Discussions are under way for the acquisition of "more than one aircraft", but the airline will not elaborate because it is still negotiating a variety of matters, including finance.

It is believed, however, that the candidate aircraft are two Royal Brunei Fokker 100s which are being returned to lessor Air Finance Europe when replacement Airbus A319s are delivered later this year.

Gill's fleet of six Shorts 360s, four ATR 42s and three ATR 72s is operated from Newcastle to points in the UK and continental Europe, both in its own right and with other carriers. The airline serves Paris from Newcastle with an ATR 42 under franchise to Air France and has a wet-lease deal with KLM uk on services from London Stansted. A code-share agreement is in place with KLM's German partner, Eurowings.

"We are in talks with Air France about expanding the franchise when we add the jets," says the airline, "but we will retain our links with the KLM carriers." The Fokker 100s would initially be used to upgrade the Paris service.

Source: Flight International