Société Tunisienne de l’Air, or Tunisair (Arabic: الخطوط التونسية) is the flag carrier airline of Tunisia. Formed in 1948, it operates scheduled international services to European, African and Middle Eastern destinations. Its main base is Tunis-Carthage International Airport. The airline’s head office is in Tunis, near Tunis Airport. Tunisair is a member of the Arab Air Carriers Organization.
The carrier was formed by the government of Tunisia as Société Tunisienne de l’Air in late 1948. The initial investment was FRF 60 million, with shareholding split between the government (35%), Air France (35%) and another interests (30%). Air France transferred some of its DC-3s and routes (which included Tunis–Bone–Algiers, Tunis–Ajaccio–Nice, Tunis–Bastia–Nice, Tunis–Rome and a cargo flight between Tunis and Marseilles) to the new airline for it to start operations; these commenced on 1 April 1949. The first managing director of the company was Rene Lefevre.
Tunisair became the first Airbus A319 customer in both the Arab World and Africa when it ordered three aircraft in October 1997, along with four Airbus A320s. Another order followed the same year when the carrier acquired four Boeing 737-600s that were initially slated for delivery starting in May 1999. The airline took options on three more aircraft but the specific variants were not informed at that time. The aircraft included in both orders were aimed at replacing the ageing Boeing 727s and 737s in the airline ’s fleet. The company took delivery of its first A319 in August 1998. Tunisair subsequently added three more Boeing 737-600s, taking delivery of the seventh one in April 2001.
Two second-hand General Electric CF6-powered Airbus A300-600R were purchased in 2000; A third aircraft of the type joined the fleet in 2001. An extended range A319 was ordered in 2006. In July 2008, Tunisair ordered three Airbus A350 XWBs, along with three Airbus A330s and ten Airbus A320s. The order was partially amended in mid-2013, when the airline cancelled the order for the A350.
The Airbus A320 family consists of short- to medium-range, narrow-body, commercial passenger twin-engine jet airliners manufactured by Airbus. The family includes the A318, A319, A320 and A321, as well as the ACJ business jet. The A320s are also named A320ceo (current engine option) after the introduction of the A320neo. Final assembly of the family in Europe takes place in Toulouse, France, and Hamburg, Germany. Starting in 2009, a plant in Tianjin, China, has also been producing aircraft for Chinese airlines. In April 2013, Airbus started construction of a new production facility for the A319, A320, and A321 variants in Mobile, Alabama. The aircraft family can accommodate up to 220 passengers and has a range of 3,100 to 12,000 km (1,700 to 6,500 nmi), depending on model.
The first member of the A320 family—the A320—was launched in March 1984, first flew on 22 February 1987, and was first delivered in March 1988. The family was soon extended to include the A321 (first delivered 1994), the A319 (1996), and the A318 (2003). The A320 family pioneered the use of digital fly-by-wire flight control systems, as well as side-stick controls, in commercial aircraft. There has been a continuous improvement process since introduction.
In December 2010, Airbus announced a new generation of the A320 family, the A320neo “New Engine Option”. The A320neo offers a choice of CFM International LEAP-X or Pratt & Whitney PW1000G engines, combined with airframe improvements and the addition of winglets, named Sharklets by Airbus. The aircraft will deliver fuel savings of up to 15%. The first A320neo will enter service with Virgin America in 2016. As of December 2011, a total of 1,196 A320neo family aircraft have been ordered by 21 airlines, making it the fastest ever selling commercial aircraft.
As of 31 March 2015, a total of 6,494 Airbus A320 family aircraft have been delivered, of which 6,231 are in service. In addition, another 5,088 airliners are on firm order. It ranked as the world’s fastest-selling jet airliner family according to records from 2005 to 2007, and as the best-selling single-generation aircraft programme. The A320 family has proved popular with airlines including low-cost carriers such as EasyJet which purchased A319s, and A320s, to replace its Boeing 737 fleet. The aircraft family competes directly with the Boeing 737 and has competed with the 717, 757, and the McDonnell Douglas MD-80/MD-90.