Lion Airlines, Indonesia's largest private airline, is seeking 10 Airbus A320s, a move that could disadvantage Boeing in the competition to supply the carrier with widebodies.
"We have been talking with lessors. We want one lessor to supply all the aircraft, which until now has not been possible," says Rusdi Kirana, Lion's president director.
It is unclear whether all the aircraft will be leased. Lion has been building its Boeing MD-82 fleet through a mix of leasing and buying, which Rusdi favours, given the still historically low prices. The airline now operates 18 MD-82s (plus one MD-83), and aims to have a fleet of 33 MD-82s by the year-end. After the A320s are delivered, Lion plans to transfer the MD-80s to its feeder subsidiary Wings Abadi Air.
Meanwhile Lion plans to add medium-haul widebodies, possibly by December, for routes linking China and India with Indonesia. Rusdi concedes that operating A320s will give the Airbus A330 an advantage over Boeing's 777, but the latter has not been ruled out.
A pilot shortage, combined with fast-growing traffic, which should see passenger numbers double to a million a month by December, is forcing Lion to train 50 pilots this year. Talks continue with GE Capital Aviation Training to buy an MD-80 simulator, based in London.
DAVID FULLBROOK / JAKARTA
Source: Flight International