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Fabio Villegas: Avianca to replace Fokker jets

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BOGOTA, Colombia – Colombia’s largest airline, Avianca, plans to replace Fokker jets with new airplanes of 100 seats or less, Chief Executive Fabio Villegas said.

BOGOTA, Colombia – Colombia’s largest airline, Avianca, plans to replace Fokker jets with new airplanes of 100 seats or less, Chief Executive Fabio Villegas said.

Avianca is looking to replace 15 Fokker-100 and 10 Fokker-50 jets it currently operates for commercial flights shorter than one-and-a-half hours, Villegas said.

The airline won’t buy the same exact number of jets, as it will depend on specific needs, he added. He declined to give a time frame and said the company is only evaluating offers from all the makers of commercial jets with 100 seats or less.

Brazil’s Embraer-Empresa Brasileiras de Aeronautica S/A and Canada’s Bombardier Inc. are the world’s largest manufacturers of those jets.

In 2007, Avianca undertook a broad renovation of its fleet. The company announced in 2008 it would buy or lease up to 90 jets by 2012, including medium- and long-haul jets manufactured by Europe’s Airbus and by Boeing Co.

The company wants to replace aging jets by new ones more fuel-efficient and cheaper to operate.

Avianca recently announced it will merge with Salvadoran rival Grupo TACA to create the second-largest airline in Latin America. The controlling shareholder of the merged company, Bolivian-born businessman German Efromovich, said last month it will need many more jets than the ones already being purchased.