Air New Zealand has announced plans to order up to 12 new ATR 72-600 turboprops for use on NZ regional routes from late 2012.
The airline says it is buying seven -600 series ATRs and taking purchase options on a further five, with the first due for delivery in October 2012. A second -600 will arive in December 2012, two in 2013, and one each in the following three years. The aircraft covered by purchase options would be delivered between 2014 and 2016.
Air New Zealand already operates ATR 72-500s, first delivered from 1999, plus 23 Bombardier Q300s in its regional fleet.
“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,” said Air New Zealand group general manager Australasia airline Bruce Parton. “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 regional operation.”
The -600s will be configured to seat 68 in Air New Zealand service, and their advanced cockpit technology will allow them to take advantage of RNP approaches and departures across New Zealand.
“It is likely that the new fleet will be Auckland based, providing us with an excellent spread of regional aircraft including bases in Christchurch, Nelson and Hamilton,” Parton said. “This will give us a solid platform for regional growth particularly into and out of Auckland.”