Switzerland-based Etihad Regional ‒ formerly known as Darwin Airline ‒ has announced a multi-million dollar agreement to lease four used ATR 72-500 turboprops, which will see the carrier boost its fleet of regional airliners to 12 aircraft to support its rapidly expanding network.
All four aircraft are scheduled for delivery between April and June, with Etihad Regional’s first ATR 72-500 due to arrive at the carrier’s Geneva International Airport (IATA code GVA) main operating base on April 1.
The carrier currently operates a fleet of eight 50-seat Saab 2000 turboprop regional airliners.
Etihad Regional will configure each leased ATR 72-500 with 68 seats.
Its choice of used ATR 72-500s for fleet expansion appears likely to presage a future order for, or lease of, new ATR 72-600 turboprops for fleet replacement or expansion. The Saab 2000, on which Darwin Airline has relied throughout its operating history, is no longer in production.
Adding weight to this speculation is the fact that when Etihad Regional announced its lease of the four ATR 72-500s, ATR promptly issued a computer graphic image of an ATR 72-600 in Etihad Regional colors.
The lease of the four used ATR 72-500 turboprops to Etihad Regional was arranged by Nordic Aviation Capital (NAC), the world’s largest turboprop-airliner leasing company. NAC is headquartered in Billund in Denmark.
Etihad Regional announced the fleet additions at a joint Etihad Regional-ATR media conference in Lugano, where Etihad Regional is headquartered. The announcement comes after the Swiss-based airline’s recent announcement of a sizable number of new routes. It has already launched several of these new routes.
“Today’s announcement marks the beginning of our new fleet expansion program. It is part of our strategy of matching our growing network and frequency requirements with the right aircraft,” says Maurizio Merlo, chief executive officer.
“Choosing ATR for this transaction is a logical step. The ATR aircraft have the lowest seat-mile costs in their class, are ideally suited for regional operations, can operate in all-weather types, and have relatively low engine and airframe maintenance costs,” adds Merlo. “The ATR 72-500s are not only known for their reliability and technology but are also the top-selling turboprop aircraft on the market.”
“The comfort and configuration of the new aircraft will help rejuvenate Etihad Regional’s fleet and further boost its product quality, while enabling the expansion of regional operations,” says Peter Baumgartner, vice chairman of Etihad Regional.
Adds Baumgartner. “These aircraft will allow Etihad Regional to expand the number of routes it operates, as they link key European regional towns and cities with the rest of our network, and with the hubs of Etihad Airways and its equity partners, thus being a key enabler in improving access for travellers throughout Europe.”
The carrier has already begun crew recruitment for the four ATR 72-500s, and expects to hire a total of 40 cabin crew staff to operate the new fleet type. The airline is also hiring 16 captains and 16 first-officers, bringing the airline’s total pilot count to 115.
Etihad Regional is Etihad Airways’ new European regional affiliate brand. Operated by Darwin Airline, which was founded in 2003. it serves a range of key secondary markets in Europe.
Future 33.3 per cent shareholding and codeshare partner Etihad Airways operates to long-haul and international destinations across Europe, Australia, Asia, Middle East, Africa and the Americas from its hub at Abu Dhabi International Airport.
Etihad Regional currently operates two-class flights with a fleet of eight 50-seat Saab 2000 turboprop aircraft on a network stretching from southern Italy (and soon the Balkans) to the UK. For more information, visit www.etihadregional.com.