Andrew Doyle/LONDON

Spanair plans to launch a new high gross weight version of the Airbus A321 as part of its commitment for up to 45 Airbus narrowbodies to replace its ageing Boeing MD-80 fleet.


The carrier - Spain's second largest after Iberia - has signed a memorandum of understanding covering 21 firm orders and 12 reconfirmable commitments, comprising seven A319s, 17 A320s and nine A321s. The airline will take options for another 12 aircraft. All are to be powered by International Aero Engines V2500s.

The Palma de Mallorca-based airline is leasing 15 of the Airbuses from International Lease Finance. The remainder will be purchased.

The first aircraft to be delivered, in September 2000, will be an A321. All of the A321s are to be handed over by 2005. They will be deployed on European routes from the Balearic Islands, Canary Islands and other Spanish airports.

The growth A321-200 to enter service with Spanair increases maximum take-off weight by 2t to 93t. This provides 550km (300nm - or just over 10%)more range with the addition of a pair of auxiliary fuel tanks in the cargo hold.

With the new maximum range of 5,550km, the A321-200 will be capable of transcontinental flights in the USA and charter operations between northern Europe and Mediterranean or North African destinations, with a full payload.

The Airbuses will replace Spanair's 20 Boeing MD-82/83s and two MD-87s. To allow for rapid passenger growth and recently introduced new routes, the carrier will lease extra MD-80s for the summer, bringing its total fleet to 32.

Spanair, which in the last four years has seen its scheduled traffic grow from 15% to 55% of its total, brought in a pre-tax profit of "more than a billion pesetas" in 1998, against sales of Ptas74.4 billion ($488 million).

The carrier, 49% owned by SAS, the rest by Spanish travel agent Viajes Marsans, plans to float a minority stake on the stock market before the end of the year.

Source: Flight International