March 11, 2019 / 12:54 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-Ahead of key bankruptcy hearing, Avianca Brasil to sell assets to Azul

(Recasts with details of upcoming hearing and context throughout)

SAO PAULO, March 11 (Reuters) - Brazilian airline Azul SA said on Monday it intends to pay $105 million for certain assets held by Avianca Brasil, which was headed to court to face aircraft lessors as it seeks to keep operating planes despite mounting late payments.

Azul said the non-binding purchase agreement would involve 70 pairs of slots, which grant airlines the rights to operate regular flights between airports.

Azul already operates two Airbus A320 planes that were previously used by Avianca Brasil until they were repossessed in December due to outstanding payments. Under the agreement announced on Monday, Azul said it could end up operating up to 30 Airbus planes currently in use by its rival.

Azul did not disclose how it would be able to take over the leases and the airline did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Avianca Brasil filed for bankruptcy protection in December in an attempt to stall aircraft lessors who had sued to repossess its fleet, two months after the carrier started missing payments on many of its aircraft.

The Avianca Brasil hearing scheduled for Monday in an appeals court will deal with a request from aircraft lessors, including Aircastle, that planes be repossessed as soon as possible, after a bankruptcy judge extended the airline's control over the aircraft until at least April.

Since filing for bankruptcy, Avianca Brasil has secured a $75 million loan from hedge fund Elliot Management. (Reporting by Marcelo Rochabrun and Ana Mano Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Trott)

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