October 7, 2008

Air NZ Cans Replacement Option


AIR New Zealand has shelved a US$300 million (NZ$447 million) plan to replace its fleet of 11 ATR 72-500 regional turboprop aircraft.

Instead, the airline will buy seven of the aircraft it now leases in October next year for an undisclosed sum.

Air New Zealand had been evaluating three replacement options for the past 18 months: the French-made 68-seat ATR 72-600, which is the newer version of the current 500 model; Canada's 74-seat Bombardier Q400, a bigger version of the Q300 flown by subsidiary Air Nelson; and the Embraer 70-seat E-170 regional jet from Brazil.

The airline was originally considering an order of 15 larger or next-generation models from the manufacturers to boost capacity and open new routes.

The group general manager of short-haul airlines, Bruce Parton, said the present replacement options did not provide enough performance improvements to justify the substantial cost of replacing the ATR fleet.

The replacement aircraft would also have been more expensive to operate, which would have led to higher fares. "We expect the next generation of turboprop aircraft to be available from 2015," Mr Parton said.

The 72-500 was popular with passengers as one of the quietest and most fuel-efficient aircraft of its type available. It was planned to update the cabins from next year.

The ATRs entered service with subsidiary Mount Cook Airline in 1999.


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