Kingfisher to open Dubai sweepstakes with ATR 72 order

 - December 11, 2006, 9:49 AM

Here at the Dubai 2005 show today, India’s Kingfisher Airlines is expected to order 20 ATR 72-500s, and to take options on an additional 15 of the 68-seat twin turboprop. The ATR 72s are to be delivered during a three-year period beginning next March and will be used to serve regional routes on the subcontinent.

Privately owned Kingfisher was disclosed as ATR’s latest customer in the Indian Hindustan Times newspaper. Neither the Mumbai-based carrier nor Avions de Transport Regional would comment on the report. However, all the clues surfacing in the build up to this week’s event point to the anticipated announcement.
Last week, Kingfisher confirmed to the press that it has chosen a new turboprop model for its fleet. CEO Nigel Harwood disclosed that it will sign a 20-ship contract (plus options) here this week, although he refused to say whether the company had made a choice between ATR and its Canadian rival Bombardier, which has offered its Dash 8Q Series 400.

If confirmed, the deal will bring the number of orders received by ATR this year to an impressive tally of 90 aircraft– confirming the French-Italian airframer’s belief that high fuel costs and fares competition are bringing airlines back into the turboprop market.

The aircraft are needed because Kingfisher must meet government requirements to devote a certain proportion of its capacity to small markets, which so far it has done through the purchase of Indian Airways’, or other carriers’, capacity.

Kingfisher also is expected to commit to more Airbus A320-series aircraft at the Dubai show this week. The airline is currently midway through acceptance of about 15 A320s, with three smaller A319s due to be delivered during the next two months. The carrier is negotiating with engine suppliers to provide powerplants for its five the A330-200s it has ordered. It also has ordered five A350s and five A380s.

ATR chief executive Filippo Bagnato confirmed details of this month’s Pakistan International Airlines order for seven smaller, 48-seat ATR 42-500s to replace its Fokker F-27 fleet. Deliveries of three 2006 aircraft will begin in April, while the remaining units will follow in 2007. Valued at around $100 million, the contract includes the first element of customer support from ATR.

Characterizing the competition against Bombardier as having been “tough, both technically and on price,” Bagnato said that new management at PIA had required a formal evaluation of contenders and that ATR had won after its final quotation. With an improved local economy driving traffic growth, he believes PIA will look at the ATR 72 to ensure commonality as it completes its fleet renewal. ATR sales stand at more than 750, including 70 this year, excluding those to Kingfisher.

Since June’s Paris Air Show, ATR also has taken orders for single aircraft from Air Tahiti and Binter Canarias. Bagnato told Aviation International News that the latest order is very important because it confirms the trend seen at Paris and will lead to a more credible delivery rate. After shipment of 15 aircraft this year, he expects to see about 24 units delivered in 2006 and at least 30 in 2007.

ATR will hand over the first ATR 72-200 for Air Madagascar here in Dubai on Tuesday.