Chilean airline to buy 30 jets for $2 bn

Chilean airline to buy 30 jets for $2 bnSantiago, Dec 24 - Chilean flagship airline LAN has signed a deal to purchase 30 Airbus A320 jets at a price of around $1.97 billion, the company said, adding that they will gradually be incorporated into its fleet between 2011 and 2016.

The new airplanes will operate flights in Latin America and domestic routes in Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and Chile and will be used for the renewal and growth of the company's short-haul fleet.

In a statement Wednesday, LAN said its fleet-renewal plan also involves the sale of five Airbus A318 aircraft in 2011.

LAN's chief operating officer, Ignacio Cueto, said the investment "ensures the company's future growth and reaffirms LAN's commitment to the development of commercial aviation in Latin America, as well as to the economic growth and social development of countries in the region".

"These aircraft are operated by the world's best airlines and feature the latest technology, creating a substantial change in terms of service, quality and comfort, and allowing LAN to offer the best travel experience to our passengers," Cueto said.

In its statement, the company said the new Airbus A320 jets reflect "LAN's strong commitment to the environment" because they incorporate the industry's most advanced technology and "are highly efficient in fuel consumption, allowing for a substantial reduction in emissions, while also decreasing noise levels".

LAN - one of whose main shareholders is billionaire Sebastian Pinera, the front-runner in Chile's Jan 17 presidential runoff - is among the leading passenger and cargo airlines in Latin America.

The airline and its affiliates occupy a leading position in Chile and Peru as well as an important presence in the Argentine domestic market. (IANS)