Palestinian Airlines has begun expanding its international network with the launch of scheduled services to Istanbul. The Gaza-based airline is also in the early stages of an effort to expand its fleet with the addition of new Boeing 737s to enable it to launch more international routes.

The Palestinian carrier began operations from the new Dahania Airport near Gaza in 1998 with two Fokker 50s and a Boeing 727-200.

The first of four new regional aircraft on order - two Bombardier CRJ200s and two Dash 8 Q300s - is due to arrive by the end of this month. The initial aircraft, Q300s, will be used on routes to Cyprus and possibly Turkey and Egypt. The CRJs , which are not due for delivery until the second quarter of next year, are set to be used on southern European and Gulf area routes.

A deal involving the acquisition of three 737-700s is being negotiated to begin expansion on a number of overseas routes. The airline is also looking at acquiring a Russian-built cargo aircraft.

Its network already includes destinations in various Arab countries including Egypt, Jordan and Abu Dhabi, as well as Larnaca in Cyprus, and Istanbul is now being served twice weekly. Rome and Athens flights are planned to be added later this year.

The Palestinian authority aims to sell off a stake in the airline to finance the fleet expansion as it prepares to replace its Boeing 727.

Source: Flight International