israir 88 298.
(photo credit: Courtesy photo)
Israir Airlines & Tourism said Wednesday it signed a memorandum of understanding to buy two Airbus A-320 planes marking the first time an Israeli carrier has purchased from the European aircraft manufacturer.
The deal is estimated to be valued at $150 million and Israir has an option to buy a third plane from the Toulouse, France-based company.
"The A-320s will strengthen our fleet to European destinations as it is used on flights of up to five hours," Zohar Endelman, CEO of Israir told The Jerusalem Post. "It is the first time an Israeli company has bought Airbus, which requires a big investment from our part to introduce Airbus maintenance crew and engineers to the country."
Having launched scheduled flights to New York in March this year, Endelman said the company would reevaluate its fleet again in 2007.
He would not comment on what other routes Israir had requested scheduled status from the Tansportation Ministry.
The airline operates to more than 40 destinations in Europe, the US and Asia in addition to the local flights it operates between Tel Aviv and Eilat. In November, it carried just under 20,000 passengers, according to Israel Airports Authority figures.
The single-aisle A-320 is typically designed to carry 150 passengers in two classes with a range of up to 5,700 km.
Israir said it would sign a formal agreement for the aircraft in the coming weeks and that it expects delivery to take place in 2010. It added, however, that will start leasing Airbus planes already in the next few months as part of the deal.
Airbus is supplying full maintenance support to prepare for the new aircraft, Israir noted.
The deal breaks the long-standing, all-Boeing fleet record from the three Israeli carriers, which was kept clean when Arkia committed to two Boeing 787s last month. Also in November,El Al cancelled its options to buy 10 Boeing 787s due to financial constraints.
While a 1999 El Al order for Airbus planes had been cancelled due to diplomatic pressures from the US, the now privatized El Al said last month it may go with the European manufacturer when it is again ready to purchase new planes.
Airbus spokesperson Maggie Bergsma said Airbus was very pleased to have the chance to fly into Israel for the first time but wouldn't comment on negotiations for further penetration into the Israeli market.
"Each airline makes its own choices and decides its fleet according to what fits its needs," she said.
Boeing spokesperson Michael Tull said the Chicago-based company would continue to compete successfully in the Israeli market.
"Israir is still a valued customer for Boeing and we will continue to work with its current fleet," Tull said.
He added that Israir had approached Boeing for its 737-800 aircraft to replace its current 757s in use but that the company didn't have the near-term availability to meet Israir's needs.