Privately-owned Mongolian carrier Eznis Airways is negotiating with aircraft-maker ATR to acquire an ATR 42-500 and wants to put it into operation at the end of May when the northern summer travel season commences.

Eznis CEO Glen Pickard says the airline's board has granted approval for it to acquire a new ATR 42-500 and the carrier is now negotiating with ATR and securing financing.

The airline plans to place an order for one ATR 42-500, possibly with an option for a second for delivery in 2010, says Pickard.

It wants the first aircraft delivered in time so it can complete training and put it into service at the end of May, he adds. Mongolia's peak travel season starts at this time because that is when the warmer weather kicks in.

Pickard says Eznis has been speaking to ATR's top sales representative in Beijing, Patrick Devaux, and ATR's head of sales, John Moore.

He says the carrier did consider Bombardier but ruled out the Canadian aircraft-maker because the airline wants a new 50-seat turboprop and Bombardier has announced it will stop manufacturing the 50-seat Q300.

Eznis currently operates a fleet of three Saab 340Bs but has no immediate plans to add more Saabs, says Pickard.

It wants a 50-seat turboprop because some of its domestic routes can support the larger aircraft, it is starting to do mining charters for companies that require 50-seat aircraft and it plans to launch international commercial passenger services, he says.

Next month it is launching its first international passenger service, from Mongolia's capital Ulaanbaatar to Irkusk in Russia, and last year it also received traffic rights for services from Ulaanbaatar to Ulan Ude in Russia, Hailar and Harbin in China, and Ust-kamenogorsk in Kazakhstan, he says.

It will be launching the Irkusk service using a 340B but it plans to use a 50-seat turboprop on many of its international services, says Pickard.

If Eznis ends up ordering an ATR 42-500 in the coming weeks, it will be the first ATR in Mongolia.

National carrier MIAT Mongolian Airlines has looked to add second-hand ATR 42-500s but has yet to make a final decision.

MIAT is the only local carrier that serves international markets with the exception of Aero Mongolia which has a service to Hohhot in China's Inner Mongolia province.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news