South African operator Comair intends to acquire a minimum of three to six narrowbody aircraft between 2011 and 2012.

Head of fleet planning Avi Bhatt says the airline hopes to "exploit current market conditions" and acquire new Boeing 737-800s or Airbus A320s.

Comair's current fleet comprises 23 older-generation 737 aircraft and Bhatt admits that the carrier "will more likely stick with Boeing".

Local banks, he says, are "eager" to finance three or four new aircraft. However, if the company fails to secure favourable pricing or financing it will also investigate leasing opportunities, he adds, or even look into buying "younger" 737-400s, although this is "highly unlikely".

Forty percent of Comair's fleet is leased and all rented aircraft will be returned from 2011 to 2013. Bhatt says: "It doesn't make any business sense to renew the leases."

The airline's nine 737-300s are typically some 23 years old and its 10 737-400s are up to 20 years old, according to Flight's ACAS database.

Comair flies seven 737-400s and a -300 with its Kulula Air low-cost operation, while its British Airways franchise uses eight 737-300s, three -400s and three -200s. A remaining 737-200 serves as spare capacity.

If the airline does acquire larger-capacity narrowbody aircraft, these will be introduced into Kulula. Incumbent Kulula aircraft will then transfer to the BA franchise whereupon older machines from that arm will retire.

Before that, in time for the 2010 World Cup football tournament in South Africa, Comair will conclude short-term wet-leases for four to six 737-800s.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news