Julian Moxon/PARIS

L'Aeropostale, the European cargo and passenger carrier owned jointly by Air France and the French postal system, is implementing a new three year strategic plan to boost its competitiveness and expand its business.

The expansion will see the introduction of a small regional freighter and three widebodied Airbus A300B4 freighters, as well as the re-introduction of charter flights.

The airline will retire its ageing Stage 3 hushkitted fleet of two Boeing 727-200Fs and three Boeing 737-200Cs by 2000, with its 15 737-300QCs (passenger/ cargo quick change) being joined by three ex-Olympic Airways A300s between March 1999 and 2000, following conversion by Sogerma, and up to seven examples of as yet unspecified smaller regional type freighters.

L'Aéropostale president Claude Viet says that a cargo version of the Aero International (Regional) ATR 72 "-answers our needs perfectly", but adds that "-we are still looking for a novel financing package to keep annual costs to a minimum". ATR confirms l'Aéropostale's interest, although it adds that it has yet to agree on an outside contractor to carry out the conversion to fit a 2.98m-wide cargo door to the aircraft.

Viet says that 12 of the carrier's 15 737-300QCs will continued to operate their programme of flying Air France scheduled passenger flights during the day and being converted for cargo flights each night. The carrier is looking for another European charter operator to use the remaining 737-300s, which had been flying during the day for the Air Charter division of Air France until the airline was wound up last September. They are now flying only the night-time cargo flights.

About one-third of l'Aéropostale's 1997 sales of Fr1.1 billion ($183 million) came from passengers and the rest from express freight operations. Tough competition on rates, however, led to a profit slump, to Fr1 million from Fr6.9 million, despite a 5% rise in cargo tonnage, and a 17.5% growth in passenger traffic.

Source: Flight International