Virgin Blue has announced it has chosen the ATR 72 as its regional turboprop airliner to be operated under its recently announced strategic alliance with Skywest Airlines.
With 68-seats, the ATRs will replace the Embraer E-170 in Virgin Blue service. According to the airline, the ATR offers less than half the fuel burn and fuel costs per ASK, and will cover an average 150nm sector in the same block time as the E-170. It is believed the choice was between the ATR 72 and Bombardier’s rival Q400.
Virgin Blue Group CEO John Borghetti said the first four ATR 72s would be introduced from the middle of 2011, with a further four to arrive next year. “The ATR is the best aircraft to operate on regional routes throughout Australia,” he said. “It provides the greatest fuel efficiency and passenger comfort for this category of aircraft. The ATR will form the foundation of our regional network plans, with the first six ATRs replacing our current Embraer E-170 fleet and the additional aircraft flying to new regional destinations.”
ATR chief executive Filippo Bagnato said ATR was extremely pleased to be selected by Virgin Blue, with the sale marking a first placement of new build ATR aircraft into the Australian market. “The ATR72, with its low operating cost, proven high reliability and superior passenger comfort, is ideally suited for the shorter regional routes in Australia and to fulfill Virgin Blue’s growth in these markets.”