Austrian Airlines has started an extensive review of how and when to replace its regional aircraft fleet. The airline is looking at three scenarios: getting rid of the segment altogether and focusing on traditional narrowbodies, introducing a new 100-seater while keeping its Bombardier Q400 as a smaller alternative for thinner routes or pulling out of the below 100-seat segment, CEO Jaan Albrecht tells Aviation Week.
Austrian intends to retire its more than 20-strong fleet of Fokker 70s and 100s, as expensive heavy maintenance checks are due for these types in 2016 and 2017. The aircraft predominantly are used on niche routes from Vienna to Eastern Europe and Central Asia, one of Austrian’s specialties.
If the airline was to go for a larger aircraft, it could only continue to fly routes with sufficient traffic and might have to pull out of smaller markets. Retiring the Q400s would mean that Austrian might be forced to abandon regional short-haul routes. “It is not an easy question,” Albrecht says.
The airline has a long heritage of fleet complexity that it is trying to reduce. Austrian in 2012 retired its last Boeing 737 as part of its restructuring. Aircraft such as the Embraer 190 or 195 could be an option for the Central European routes. Given that the Fokker retirement is set to happen within the next three or four years, the airline is now under some time pressure.