Home' Asian Aviation : AAV November 2011 Contents 22 AsianAviation | NOVEM BER 2011
uropean turboprop manufacturer ATR has secured a strong
foothold in the Australasian market with the entry into ser vice
in October of Virgin Australia’s first ATR 72-500 turboprops
and, in the same week, a new order from Air New Zealand.
Virgin Australia committed to eight firm orders, split equally
between the ATR 72-500 and the new ATR 72-600, plus
options for five more ATR 72-600s earlier this year. The first three aircraft of
the order – all ATR 72-500s – entered ser vice in October, on two new routes
– Brisbane- Gladstone and Brisbane-Port Macquarie, in addition to existing
routes Port Macquarie-Sydney and Sydney-Canberra . The deliveries are the
first in Australia for the ATR 72.
Perth-based regional airline Skywest is operating the new fleet of 68-seat ATR
72s on behalf of Virgin Australia under a co -operative deal. The turboprops will
be operated on a range of regional and short-haul primary routes.
“ 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 Flilippo Bagnato, ATR chief executive officer. “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.”
Australia was previously ATR’s “hole in the Asia-Pacific puzzle”, according to
John Moore, the manufacturer’s head of sales. The Franco -Italian company has
a strong position in the wider region – which has accounted for 50 percent of
its total sales in the last five years, and 51 percent of 2010 deliveries – but had
previously failed to establish a significant presence in Australia .
ATR previously only had two freighters operating in Australia with Toll
Aviation. The manufacturer has focused efforts on the market in recent years,
including establishing an office in Sydney.
The turboprop maker is optimistic of further orders from Australia , which
has an ag eing fleet of 19 to 30-seaters that will need replacement. ATR has
been targeting regional airlines as well as operators in the country’s booming
resources sector – a market the manufacturer has already had success with in
Papua New Guinea .
Meanwhile Air New Zealand, a long-term ATR customer and the
largest op erator of the aircraft in the Pacific market, has placed se ven firm
ATR 72-600 orders with options for a further five, subject to contract
signature. Deliveries are scheduled to start in October 2012, with a
second in December that year, followed by two more in 2013 and another
each year for three years through to 2016. The five purchase options are
available for delivery bet ween 2014 and 2016.
Air New Zealand first operated ATR aircraft in 1994 and has operated the
ATR 72-500 since 1999. The carrier’s Mount Cook Airline subsidiary currently
operates 11 ATR 72-500s.
“The current ATR 72-500 – which sits alongside our [Bombardier] Q300s
and Beech 1900Ds – has been a core part of our regional op erations since
1999 and has be en a popular aircraft type with customers, ser ving 14 different
domestic routes,” says Bruce Parton, Air New Zealand’s group general manag er
for Australasia .
The order potentially doubles the airline’s ATR fleet and puts a further
2 million seats into the Ne w Zealand regional market annually, the airline
says. The 68-seat ATR 72-600s will allow the airline to offer more capacity on
existing routes where necessary.
“The new ATR 72-600 aircraft will give us the means to up-gauge Q300
operated routes that will require more capacity in the coming years,” Parton
says. “In turn, this will release Q300 aircraft to up-gauge on some Beech 1900D
operated routes, enabling us to look at start-up routes. So there is benefit in
bringing in the larger turboprops and cascading growth down throughout our
Some routes currently ser ved by the Q300, including Nelson-Auckland and
New Plymouth-Auckland, will benefit from the ATR 72-600. The new fleet
will most likely be based in Auckland.
“Thanks to the purchase of larger aircraft and the lowering of fares we have
seen regional passenger numbers increase by an average 5.6 percent annually
since 2003, resulting in our regional airlines carrying 54 percent more
passengers to 4.3 million in the year ended September,” says Rob Fyfe, Air
New Zealand’s chief executive officer.
The new ATR 72-600 features the new stylised Armonia cabin interior
with larger overhead bins and improved seating , as well a s advanced cockpit
technology, including required navigation performance equipment, which will
allow the airline to maintain ser vices during inclement weather to and from
destinations such as Queenstown, Rotorua and Wellington, the airline says.
Emma Kelly / Perth
Virgin Australia has taken delivery
of the first ATR 72s in Australia.
“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.”
– AT R Chief Executive Flilippo Bagnato
28/10/11 8:25 PM
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