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Turkish Airlines to lease eight Airbus planes to cut costs

| ISTANBUL

ISTANBUL Nov 30 Turkish Airlines, which has seen profits hit by a weak lira and tough market, plans to lease out eight of its Airbus A330-200 aircraft, aviation company Air Partner said in a statement, a move that will help it to reduce costs.

The partly state-owned Turkish carrier has been hit by the steady decline of the lira, falling tourism, and stiff competition this year. Its third-quarter net profit almost halved to 584 million lira ($170 million).

Aircraft remarketing agent Cabot Aviation, a division of Air Partner Plc, said the Airbus aircraft would be made available on a wet lease basis, which includes crew, maintenance and insurance, or over a longer period on dry lease.

"These Turkish Airlines aircraft offer an operator the ability to quickly supplement capacity or test markets," Cabot's senior vice president Greg Cope said in a statement.

Turkish Airlines could not immediately be reached for comment. Though its passenger numbers increased in the first ten months of 2016, partly due to transit traffic, its load factor - a measure of capacity utilization - fell.

Turkish tourism has been hammered this year by a spate of bombings by Islamic State and Kurdish militants, and by a failed coup in July. Tourist arrivals plunged 31 percent in the first ten months of 2016 from the same period a year earlier.

The head of Turkish budget carrier Pegasus, a Turkish Airlines rival on some routes, told Reuters last week that it may postpone the delivery of new aircraft, lease some of its current fleet and sell older planes after a difficult year for tourism.

($1 = 3.4260 liras) (Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Alexander Smith)

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