Aerolineas Argentinas is considering acquiring 15 Boeing 787s with deliveries beginning as early as 2011 as part of a new tender which also seeks bids for up to 40 narrowbody aircraft.
The carrier's chief commercial officer, Juan Pablo Lafosse, reveals Aerolineas "is in the process of issuing requests for proposals" for new aircraft that meet narrowbody and widebody requirements outlined in its recently revised fleet plan. He says the airline, which now operates five Airbus A340s and two 747s, is considering 787s and A330s but not A350s for the widebody requirement.
For narrowbodies, Aerolineas is considering Boeing 737NGs and A320 family aircraft to supplement the 20 E-190s ordered last year for its domestic unit Austral. Aerolineas and Austral currently have in service 12 737-700s, about 12 737-500s and about 17 MD-80s.
Lafosse says Aerolineas' new fleet plan, which is a key component in the long-ailing carrier's transformation plan, envisions the airline operating "three or four years from now" a fleet of 60 narrowbodies and 15 widebodies. The 60 figure includes the 20 E-190s which Lafosse says are now scheduled for delivery from July 2010 through July 2011.
Aerolineas has been looking for new widebodies since the carrier was renationalised in late 2008. For several months last year the carrier was considering taking over part of the 61-aircraft Airbus widebody order placed in 2008 by former owner Marsans. In October 2009 Lafosse told ATI and Flightglobal that the Argentinean government was negotiating with Marsans and Airbus over inheriting 13 A330/A340s from this order, but that as an alternative the carrier was also looking at leasing six A330s and seven A340s.
Over the last couple of months, however, efforts to take over part of the Marsans order have since been dropped altogether. Meanwhile, Aerolineas also has widened its widebody evaluation to consider the 787.
Lafosse tells ATI and Flightglobal there are two scenarios now under consideration. The first envisions transitioning to a widebody fleet consisting entirely of 787 family aircraft but also acquiring at least two additional A330/A340s to support near-term expansion until 787s are available. Lafosse is confident Aerolineas could "transition to a 787 fleet starting one and a half or two years from now", claiming that "there are positions from lessors" in this timeframe.
The second scenario envisions replacing all of Aerolineas' seven active widebodies with new A330/A340s as well as acquiring eight additional A330/A340s for growth. Lafosse says Aerolineas is "not yet" considering A350s.
Under both widebody scenarios Aerolineas seeks two aircraft in the second half of this year, which Lafosse says will be used to launch service to Mexico. In 2011 the carrier's fleet plan has another two growth aircraft, which will be used to launch services to New York and London, as well as the first batch of replacement aircraft. In addition to the five A340s and two 747s currently operating to Miami, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Auckland and Sydney, Aerolineas has one A340 and one 747 that are not in active service.
On the narrowbody side, Lafosse in October said Aerolineas was looking at leasing 737-800s to replace its 737-500 fleet. But he says the narrowbody search has now been widened to include the A320.
He says one scenario envisions a 40-aircraft all-A320 family narrowbody fleet at Aerolineas. This would involve phasing out the 12 737-700s which have been acquired over the last year.
The second narrowbody scenario envisions acquiring 28 additional 737NGs to go along side the 12 737-700s. Lafosse says of the 40 aircraft envisioned for the Aerolineas narrowbody fleet by 2014, roughly two-thirds would be 737-700 size and one-third 737-800 size. All the narrowbody scenarios envisions Austral operating 20 E-190s as currently planned.
Lafosse says in addition to renewing the entire narrowbody fleet at Aerolineas and Austral, significant growth is envisioned as part of the new fleet plan. He says this is designed to support another component of Aerolineas' new business plan, which envisions significant capacity growth across the carrier's domestic and regional international networks.
Lafosse says the narrowbody and widebody requests for proposals are being issued to leasing companies as well as Airbus and Boeing. "It depends on who will be able to give us a better deal. We're quite sure one or two lessors will be included in the [project] but it depends on what is the better offer," he says.