Start-up carrier Tibet Airlines has selected the Airbus A319 to commence initial operations, and has agreed to take three of the type.

It is also planning to increase its fleet to 20 aircraft over the next five years.

The airline, based in Lhasa, is to acquire the initial twin-jets in a 128-seat configuration, with a two-class cabin, including eight first-class seats.

No engine selection has been given but Airbus says the carrier has "signed a commitment" for the three aircraft.

Tibet Airlines general manager Liu Yanping says the A319 offers "proven high-altitude flight performance" and that this capability was "key" to its decision.

"We are planning to expand our fleet to some 20 aircraft in the next five years," he adds.

Tibet Airlines secured Civil Aviation Administration of China approval in March this year and is intending to start flights in mid-2011.

Airbus has been assisting airlines with the development of operations in Tibet - notably at the new Ali Kunsha Airport - through the application of required navigation performance capabilities.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news