Korean launch highlights busy season in Canada

 - September 19, 2006, 5:21 AM

South Korea’s first regional airline, Jeju Air, plans to launch service this month with the first of five 74-seat Bombardier Q400 turboprops. The airline also holds options on an additional three Q400s. Young-Shin Chang, chairman of Jeju Air’s holding company, Aekyung Group, and Sang-Kil Joo, president of Jeju Air, in late April accepted delivery of the first airplane during a ceremony held in Downsview, Ontario.

Formed in January last year by the Aekyung Group and the Jeju provincial government to serve the popular vacation destination of Jeju Island, Jeju Air plans to undercut fares between the mainland and the island by 30 percent with the high-speed turboprops. Jeju Air’s schedules show inaugural flights connecting Seoul with Jeju and the northeastern county of Yangyang. Near-term plans also call for service between Seoul and Pusan and between Jeju and Pusan.

Separately, Bombardier announced last month that Arik Air of Lagos, Nigeria, has exercised a firm order for two CRJ900s, making Arik the first CRJ900 operator on the African continent and the first airline to introduce new commercial aircraft into Nigeria since 1982. Arik Air moved into the former Nigeria Airlines facilities in Lagos in April and expects to start flying its first CRJ900 next month.

The aircraft will arrive in a two-class interior, with 10 business-class seats and 65 economy seats. The airline also plans to fly two used Boeing 737s and three 2003-vintage 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200 regional jets. Arik Air hopes to introduce service to the U.S., UK and Far East by 2008.

Elsewhere in Africa, South African Express will become the first Bombardier Q400 operator on the continent once it starts service with a pair of the big turboprops, the first of which it took last month. Configured in a 74-seat layout, the Q400s will join seven 50-seat de Havilland Dash 8-300s and six 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200s in the SA Express fleet. The airline plans to deploy the new airplanes on domestic flights from Johannesburg to Bloemfontein and George.

By mid-month Bombardier’s recent run of sales success reached Europe, where Italy’s Air One signed a contract to acquire six 90-seat CRJ900s and secure options on four more. Finally, the Canadian manufacturer took an order from Japan Air Commuter for a single Q400, the airline’s 11th.