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    Sunday, January 29, 2023

    Azerbaijan Airlines Adding Airbus A320neos To Its Fleet Renewal Program

    Azerbaijan Airlines is pressing ahead with its fleet renewal, adding more Airbus A320neos and Boeing 787s by 2030.

    On Friday, Azerbaijan's national flag carrier, Azerbaijan Airlines, announced it is upgrading its fleet by adding new aircraft, including the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. The Baku-based airline already operates both types, but its Friday announcement indicates it will add more of each as it replenishes its fleet through 2030.

    Extra capacity to freshen up the fleet

    Azerbaijan Airlines (AZAL) didn't specify aircraft quantities or delivery details. Still, a look at its current fleet does give some clues as to what its renewal strategy is about. According to ch-aviation.com, AZAL has a total fleet of 34 aircraft, of which 25 are in operation, and nine are listed as inactive. Within those are eight Embraer E190s operated by Buta Airways and four aircraft operating for the VIP Fleet, including an Airbus ACJ319, ACJ320 and ACJ340, plus a Boeing 767-300ER.

    The mainline fleet, including inactive aircraft, comprises three Airbus A319s, six A320s, three A320neos and two A340s. From Boeing, it includes three 757s, two 767s, one 777 and two 787s. The fleet has an average age of 12.4 years, ranging from the 757s at 24.7 to the A320neos at less than one year.

    The existing six A320s have an average age of 16.5 years, and the A319s are 17.2 years, making them obvious candidates for replacement by new A320neos. The two 787-8 Dreamliners were delivered in December 2014 and will likely continue, with the airline adding more widebody aircraft to support its international expansion.

    The Farnborough Dreamliner order

    At the 2022 Farnborough International Airshow, AZAL signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to purchase four Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners. The announcement, released on July 20th, 2022, said the Dreamliners were due to be delivered between 2025 and 2030. AZAL was the first airline from the former Soviet Union to operate the 787-8, with the two delivered in 2014. President of AZAL, Jahangir Asgarov, said:

    "This MoU is the evidence of joint efforts to scale up the mutually beneficial partnership between Azerbaijan Airlines and Boeing.

    "Over the years, our 787 airplanes have provided impeccable performance, and the addition of more long-haul airplanes will further expand the geography of Azerbaijan Airline's route network."

    Upgrading the A320s

    The rationale for adding more Airbus A320neos is not spelled out by AZAL, so perhaps the clues come from the age of the existing A320ceos and the announcements of new routes this month. The six A320-200s were all previously operated by Air Berlin, with most first delivered in 2006 - 2007. They are due for replacement, and AZAL will benefit significantly by switching routes to A320neos, from passenger experience, operating cost, and emissions-reduction perspectives.

    On Friday, AZAL also announced twice-weekly new routes to three Russian destinations, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, and Samara. The flights to Samara will be operated by AZAL's low-cost carrier, Buta Airways. Earlier in January, AZAL announced it would start flights between Baku and Kazakhstan's largest city Almaty. The twice-weekly service will operate on Tuesdays and Fridays, starting from March 17th.

    AZAL is also opening twice weekly flights to the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana, from March 16th. The three-hour flights will depart Baku on Mondays and Thursdays and return on Tuesdays and Fridays.

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