German tour operator Preussag is shortly to launch an in-depth study into the renewal of its 88-strong fleet from 2004. The group is also considering the launch of a no-frills airline to head off a threat from existing budget carriers.

Preussag intends to replace by 2010 ageing aircraft in its six Boeing-dominated in-house fleets that are run by its TUIairline division. The group says it will approach both Airbus and Boeing and would "ideally" seek to simplify its fleet and use one supplier.

Although most of the aircraft are relatively young, Britannia Airways has a number of older Boeing 767-200ERs and 757-200s, while Hapag-Lloyd has elderly Airbus A310s. The majority of Hapag-Lloyd's fleet comprises 29 modern Boeing 737-800s, while Britannia Airways Sweden operates eight of the type and Preussag's Italian-based carrier Neos has two. Corsair of France operates a mixed fleet of 11 aircraft, including 737-300/400s and Boeing 747-200/300s, while Polish carrier White Eagle Aviation has two older 737s.

Meanwhile, the German company denies that its deliberations on entering the low-cost airline market are in response to plans by rival tour operator MyTravel of the UK to launch a no-frills operation out of the UK this year with two Airbus A320s.

But Preussag does say it sees "a big threat" from low-cost airlines to its seats-only business, which in the past two years has been faster growing than sales involving accommodation and which now represents 25-30% of total capacity. Ryanair, for example, is ramping up services to leisure destinations from its base in Frankfurt Hahn.

Preussag has not ruled out buying an airline already active in the sector.

Source: Flight International