Switzerland-based Etihad Regional signed a multi-million-dollar agreement to lease four ATR 72-500 aircraft, increasing its regional fleet to 12 aircraft to support a rapidly expanding European network. The airline currently operates a fleet of eight 50-seat Saab 2000 turboprop aircraft.
Etihad Regional will configure each of the ATR 72-500 aircraft with 68 seats. All four leased aircraft are scheduled for delivery between April and June, with the first landing at Geneva International Airport in Switzerland on April 1.
The fleet announcement was made at a joint Etihad Regional-ATR media conference in Lugano, and comes after the Swiss-based airline's recent announcement of a number of new routes, several of which have already been launched. The lease of the aircraft was arranged by Nordic Aviation Capital (NAC), the world's largest turboprop leasing company headquartered in Billund, Denmark.
Maurizio Merlo, CEO, Etihad Regional said: “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.
“Choosing ATR for this transaction is a logical step," he said noting that "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. The ATR 72-500s are not only known for their reliability and technology but are also the top-selling turboprop aircraft on the market.”
Peter Baumgartner, vice chairman, Etihad Regional said: “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." He said the 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 the airline's network, and with the hubs of Etihad Airways and its equity partners.
Etihad Regional said it's begun recruitment for 16 captains and 16 first-officers, bringing the airline's total pilot count to 115. It will also hire 40 cabin crew members.
Operated by Darwin Airline Etihad Regional is the new European brand operated by Swiss-based regional carrier, Darwin Airline, founded in 2003. It serves a range of key secondary markets in Europe and offers long-haul and international destinations across Europe, Australia, Asia, Middle East, Africa and the Americas through its future 33.3 per cent shareholding equity and codeshare partner, Etihad Airways. The airline currently operates two-class flights with a fleet of eight 50-seat Saab 2000 turboprop aircraft to a network stretching from southern Italy to the UK. The airline's major hub is the Swiss city of Geneva.