Denim air drops regional service, expands lease ops

 - October 30, 2006, 11:30 AM

Having dropped regional operations rather than continue losing money into the winter season, Netherlands-based Denim Air group plans to offer enhanced wet-lease services and may add regional jets, according to airline CEO Matthijs Boertien. Poor profitability and increased competition in key German, Italian and Swiss markets saw subsidiary Denim Airways cease scheduled flights in September. Its five Fokker 50 twin turboprops have now joined Denim Air’s fleet of nine similar machines and five de Havilland Dash 8-300s used to provide wet-lease services.

Boertien reports “a strong resurgence of interest” in 50-seat turboprops for contract work. The group recently moved to offset reduced demand during the European winter by sending Fokker 50s to West Africa’s Air Mauritania and Air Senegal during that region’s high season.

The five Dash 8s fly for Spanish regional Air Nostrum, some of whose own examples may join Denim Air in 2007. [Iberia franchisee Air Nostrum owned Denim Air from 1999 to 2002–Ed.] Current or recent Denim Air customers in Europe include Aer Arran, Air Exel, EuroManx, KLM CityHopper and Loganair.

Now, the group has developed an ACMI (aircraft, crew maintenance and insurance) Plus program that offers start-up regional airlines full operational support, including marketing, sales, distribution and interlining services.

Denim Air is also evaluating larger regional jets, such as the Embraer 170 and 190 and the Fokker 70 and 100, and hopes to decide by the second quarter of next year. Owned by Rekkof chairman Jaap Rosen Jacobson, group parent company Panta Holding acquired Denim Air in July and also owns Belgian regional VLM Airlines under separate management arrangements.

Jacobson said Denim would require up to 10 RJs over about six years as turboprops come due for replacement.