Virgin Australia has begun revenue flights with the first of its new ATR 72-500 turboprop regional airliners.
The inaugural flight of Virgin Australia’s first turboprop – and Australia ’s first ATR 72 – was also the airline’s first flight from Brisbane to the regional industrial city of Gladstone in Queensland. Virgin Australia flight DJ1711 departed Brisbane at 10.30 a.m. local time.
Virgin Australia’s first Brisbane-Gladstone flight was a milestone for ATR Regional Aircraft, the world’s largest manufacturer of 50-to-74-seat turboprop airliners, because it means ATR has now added Australia to an already-extensive list of Asia-Pacific markets where ATR 72-500s operate.
Perth-based Skywest Airlines is operating the new ATR 72 services on behalf of Virgin Australia, using a fleet of eight 68-seat ATR 72 aircraft.
Skywest Airlines has ordered four ATR 72-500s – three of which have now been delivered – and four next-generation ATR 72-600s.
The carrier also has options to acquire another five ATR 72-600s, all of which it will operate for Virgin.
In addition to Gladstone, Virgin Australia will operate the ATR 72s on a range of other regional or short-haul primary routes, including Brisbane-Port Macquarie and Sydney-Port Macquarie, beginning October 19.
Additional ATR 72 routes will follow, including Sydney-Canberra and another new market, Brisbane-Emerald. Emerald is located in the Central Highlands district of Central Queensland.
“Virgin Australia needed an aircraft type which would provide an economic entry into new regional routes, and cost-effective expansion of a range of existing markets,” says Filippo Bagnato, chief executive officer of ATR. “The ATR 72 is that aircraft, offering both the lowest cost and the greenest option in the regional segment, while delivering a spacious, quiet cabin environment for passengers. We are delighted that Virgin Australia and Skywest have selected our aircraft for the next step in Virgin’s growth strategy.”