Air Transport World

A breed apart: there is no single template for Europe's regional airlines, but all have faced a difficult few years capped by the volcanic ash crisis.(Analysis)

CONSOLIDATION MAY BE THINNING THE RANKS OF EUROPE'S major airlines, but the continent's regional segment is still characterized by its size and diversity. At one end of the spectrum are small carriers such as Air Iceland, Baboo, DOT LT and Montenegro Airlines, each of which operates a fleet of fewer than 10 aircraft. At the other are airlines like Air Nostrum and Flybe deploying more than 60 aircraft apiece. Flybe is Europe's largest regional in terms of passengers with 6.7 million enplanements in 2009, according to data from UK CAA.

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A goodly number of Europe's regionals, carriers like Carpartair, Eastern Airways and Guernsey-based Aurigny, operate mainly hub-bypass, region-to-region routes. Others are linked to majors and a large chunk of their business is providing feed either as an independent operator or through some type of affiliation. Air Nostrum operates as Iberia Regional and Augsburg Airways flies for Lufthansa Regional but both assume their own commercial and operating risks.

Conversely, Regional, CityJet, Brit Air and KLM cityhopper are fully owned by Air France KLM Group; Wideroe and Blue 1 belong to SAS Group, and the shareholdings of Tyrolean Airways, bmi regional, Air Dolomiti and Cityline rest with Lufthansa Group. More recent examples of regionals locking in commercial or shareholding agreements with major network carriers include Aer Arann (ATW, 6/10, p. 51), which commenced franchise operations for Aer Lingus at the end of March, and Finnish Commuter Airlines, which is in the process of being acquired by Finnair.

Concluding that these actions signal the disappearance of the purely independent regional carrier from European skies is premature, however, says Mike Ambrose, longstanding DG of the European Regions Airline Assn. …

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