Gol is close to completing a deal covering the return of one of its seven grounded Boeing 767s and is considering reactivating at least one 767 for its new Caribbean operation.

The Brazilian airline group over the last several months has been negotiating with its 767 lessors potential early return deals and with other airlines potential sub-leases or wet-leases. Gol's Varig unit grounded all of its 767s last year after discontinuing its long-haul operation, although the carrier has been occasionally reactivating a 767 to operate a domestic flight in order to keep a small group of pilots current on the type.

Gol, which following its 2007 acquisition of Varig entered into long-term lease deals for 14 767s, began the year with seven grounded 767s. It returned one aircraft in April as part of an exchange with ILFC which resulted in the carrier taking an additional Boeing 737-800.

"Now we are down to six," Gol CEO Constantino Oliveira Junior told investors today during the carrier's third quarter earnings call. "We have one agreement which is very advanced in terms of returning one of them before year end."

Oliveira says in the meantime Gol is now looking at using at least one of the remaining 767s on new Caribbean routes although this is not a permanent solution for the aircraft.

"There's been a very strong demand in the charter business to the Caribbean for the high season," Oliveira says. "We may have a situation where we may want to use one of the 767s on those routes."

Gol began Caribbean services in July with flights to Aruba, Curacao and the Dominican Republic. Initially all the flights were operated only as charters but most of them have since transitioned to scheduled services with most seats still sold as part of charter packages by travel agents and some seats sold through other distribution channels including Gol's website.

While Oliveira says the new Caribbean routes are performing well he stresses that before it up-gauges any of the routes from Boeing 737-800s to 767s the carrier needs to ensure using the widebody on Caribbean flights will result in a better return than leaving the 767s on the ground.

Oliveria adds he "doesn't see a situation" that will result in all of Gol's remaining 767s being used consistently on Caribbean routes. "But if demand continues on the charter business in the Caribbean for the high season there is a likelihood we may use one," he explains.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news