Star Alliance carrier Spanair plans to retire its Boeing MD-80 fleet by the first quarter of 2012 and is looking to lease Airbus A320-family aircraft to replace its Boeing 717s, which are in the process of being returned to SAS Group.

Speaking to ATI at Spanair's headquarters in Barcelona, the carrier's strategic planning director, Jim Paton, said it aimed to operate "a single Airbus fleet", although no new aircraft orders are imminent.

"I don't envision an order before the next one to two years. We will look at aircraft to lease to replace the 717s," says Paton.

Spanair operates a 35-strong fleet comprising 19 A320s, five A321s, four MD-80s, three MD-87s and four 717s, which it subleases from former owner SAS. The four 717s are gradually being returned to be operated by SAS subsidiary Blue1.

Since its acquisition from SAS by a group of Catalonian investors in early 2009, Spanair has reduced its fleet by 10 aircraft and has focused on introducing new international routes to its network. By next summer, Spanair will operate over 20 international routes, compared with just five in 2009.

"We've focused on where there's a gap in the market - on trunk routes to major European cities," says Paton. The carrier recently announced new flights to Berlin and Hamburg, where Paton says there is "an opportunity for a full-service offering".

North and West Africa will be a "key area of focus" for Spanair, which is in the process of adding to its network Bamako in Mali, Algiers, Tripoli and Banjul in Gambia.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news