Russian provincial operator Ak Bars Aero plans to treble its fleet of Bombardier CRJ200 regional jets and acquire medium-range aircraft.

The Tatarstan-based airline, known as Bugulma Air before its rebranding in 2010, has seven leased CRJ200s.

Speaking in Kazan, managing director Pyotr Trubayev said Ak Bars was finalising agreements with the aim of increasing this fleet to 15 by the middle of 2012 and to 20 in 2013.

He added: "At the same time, we're not going to remain a purely regional carrier because our shareholders have set us the task of expanding our geographical reach."

Initially, Ak Bars Aero intends to bring in up to four medium-range jets over the next two years. "We're currently choosing between Boeing and Airbus aircraft types," said Trubayev.

Following the rebranding, the airline's traffic is expected to double to 290,000 passengers in 2011 and treble to 360,000 passengers in 2012.

Alongside greater capacity, growth projections take account of enhancements in the network system. Apart from Bugulma and Kazan, Ak Bars Aero will base its CRJ200s in Chelyabinsk and Kaliningrad.

"In the winter season, we'll serve four cities from Chelyabinsk on a regular basis and provide two daily Moscow services from Kaliningrad," said Trubayev.

"Plans are also afoot to launch international flights from the exclave of Kaliningrad tentatively to Germany, Poland and Belarus."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news