Paul Lewis/HANOI

VIETNAM AIRLINES IS finalising an agreement with Region Air of Singapore to lease ten new-build Airbus Industrie A320s as replacements for existing wet-leased aircraft.

The agreement, expected to be signed as Flight International went to press, calls for the delivery of eight aircraft in 1996, starting in June, and the remaining two in early 1997. The ten-year lease agreement is understood to include the option for Vietnam Airlines to purchase some or all of the 150-seat aircraft.

Region Air had hoped to secure a deal earlier this year, but has been delayed by the need to secure financial support and Vietnamese Government approval. The Singapore Company has already leased an interim A320 from Oryx and two Royal Brunei-owned Boeing 767s to the carrier.

The new aircraft will replace seven wet-leased A320s, three of which are due to be returned to Air France in March 1996 and two to General Electric Capital (GECAS) in April. The leases on the final two GECAS aircraft have been extended from June to November, to allow more time for the introduction of new aircraft.

Vietnam Airlines, however, still faces a three-month shortfall before delivery of its first Region Air A320. Stopgap options are being discussed, including an interim number of Air France A300B4s or leased A320s.

The new A320s, will be among 30 new aircraft planned to be leased or purchased by Vietnam Airlines, by the year 2000. With its new fleet, the airline hopes to completely phase out its remaining fleet of 12 Tupolev Tu-134s and one Yakovlev Yak-40 by the end of 1997.

The A320 deal is likely to be followed, by replacement of Vietnam Airlines' three wet-leased 767-300s and one -200 aircraft, with new 767s. "Our plan is to build up our fleet of dry-lease aircraft in 1996," says Vietnam Airlines deputy director-general Ngyuyen Duc Vinh.

Region Air hopes in the longer term to follow up its A320 deal with the lease of an initial two-to- three Airbus A340s for long-haul non-stop routes to Europe, and possibly the USA, from late-1996/7 (Flight International, 1-7 March, P10). Alternative types being considered include the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 and the Boeing 747-400 and 777.

Ultimately, the carrier will require four to six long-haul aircraft, says Vinh, in addition to more A320s and 767s. Other requirements include a further two to four turboprop aircraft to supplement its four ATR 72s.

Source: Flight International