Garuda Indonesia has reached agreement with Boeing to return six leased MD-11s, which in turn are being placed with Brazilian carriers Varig and VASP. Airbus Industrie is also assisting the Indonesian airline to find homes for six leased A330-300s.

The Boeing tri-jets will be withdrawn from service within a month, with four going to Varig and the remaining two to VASP. Three General Electric CF6-80C2-powered six-year-old MD-11s were originally leased for 12 years from the former McDonnell Douglas Finance and were not scheduled for return until 2005. The last of three new leased MD-11ERs was delivered as recently as November 1997.

Garuda says that it can no longer afford to lease the aircraft in the face of an 85% devaluation in the Indonesian rupiah and a massive drop-off in traffic. It has already suspended flights from Jakarta to Los Angeles, the main route used by the MD-11s.

Boeing is understood to have agreed to the early return of the MD-11s on condition that Garuda stops making lease payments on six Rolls-Royce Trent 700-powered A330-300s. The airline says that Airbus is helping it to find subleases for the first three A330s.

The first A330s were delivered in late 1996 on a 12-year operating lease, but Garuda has already defaulted on at least one payment to a consortium of European banks. Delivery of its final three A330s has been deferred indefinitely.

Garuda has also pushed back delivery of six 777-200s by another two years, until 2002. Although no engine selection for these aircraft has been announced, Boeing lists General Electric as the supplier.

To help make up for capacity loss, Garuda says it will retain four 747-200s and five McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30s which it had been trying to sell. Five Pratt &Whitney JT9D-powered, two-pilot A300B4s are still for sale and the airline is negotiating with Airspeed to extract itself from a sale/leaseback deal on the other three aircraft.

Indonesia's domestic carriers are also being forced to scale back operations, with estimates that load factors are down to as low as 35%.

Sempati's operational fleet has shrunk from some 25 aircraft to just three 737-200s, with General Electric Capital now trying to retrieve its last two grounded Fokker 100s, which could be going to British Midland. Bouraq has been forced to return two of its eight leased 737-200s, while Merpati Nusantara is believed to have grounded its Airbus A310 and at least two Fokker F28s.

Source: Flight International