Gulf Air has agreed a sale-and-leaseback deal with SMBC Aviation Capital for the initial six of its 12 Airbus A320neos on order, the first one of which entered service in August with the Bahrain-based carrier.

The airline has commitments for 12 CFM International Leap-1A-powered A320neos, together with 17 A321neos. It will take delivery of the remaining five A320neos from the first batch in 2019. The agreement with the Dublin-based lessor was announced at the Bahrain air show on 15 November.

Chief executive Kresimir Kucko says Gulf Air will decide on financing arrangements for the next six A320neos in the first half of 2019, although he hints that "I hope it will be the beginning of a good friendship" with SMBC.

SMBC chief executive Peter Barrett adds: "We are confident of expanding our relationship with Gulf Air."

The first of Gulf Air's A321neos, which will be used to open new mid-haul routes from Bahrain, are due to arrive in 2020. All 27 re-engined aircraft will be in service by 2023, says Kucko.

Gulf Air has also taken delivery of five Boeing 787-9s, with a further five on order, and options for six. Gulf Air, which also signed a memorandum of understanding on possible cooperation with rival Etihad Airways at the show, aims to have a fleet of around 50 aircraft by 2023, from 33 today.

Source: Cirium Dashboard