Surinam Airways will put its new Airbus A340-300 into operation in the "next 10 days" on its service between the South American country and Amsterdam, Henk Fitz-Jim, general manager North America told Air Transport Intelligence at the Airline Business Network Latin America event in St Maarten.

The carrier was looking for a Boeing 777-300ER to replace its ex-KLM 747-300 Combi on the route but a lack of availability meant it has turned to an ex-Air France A340 leased from ILFC instead. "The final flight of the 747 was on 25 of November, which just happened to be Independence Day in Surinam," said Fitz-Jim.

The carrier, which is state-owned and likely to return to profit this year after two years of losses, is in negotiations with a potential buyer for the 747, but if this falls through the aircraft will be placed into storage, said Fitz-Jim. The 321-seat A340-300 will be operating on a four times weekly schedule to Amsterdam, an extra frequency compared to the 747 schedule. The airline is seeing load factors of on average 90% on its Amsterdam services.

Surinam has brought in ACMI operator Hi-Fly to fill the gap between the 747 leaving service and the A340 beginning to operate. It is flying one of its A340s on the route.

A sister ship to the Air France A340 will join Surinam's fleet in June.

In June the carrier brought in two 737-300s leased from AWAS to expand its regional services from Surinam's capital Paramaribo, said Fitz-Jim. In particular the airline is looking at serving Georgetown in Guyana and Barbados.

A further expansion of the fleet could also come in 2010 as the carrier is looking at bringing in an all-cargo 737 to boost its freight operation around South America and the Caribbean, said Fitz-Jim.

Surinam has not felt the ravages of the global downturn too much, said Fitz-Jim. The local economy is growing and the country is benefiting from having a stable political situation. "The country is seeing an increase in tourism, which is having a positive effect," said Fitz-Jim.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news