On April 1 Switzerland’s Etihad Regional took delivery of the first of four 68-seat ATR 72-500s recently acquired under a new lease agreement with Nordic Aviation Capital. The deal, which calls for final delivery next month, will see Etihad Regional boost its fleet to 12 airplanes, including eight 50-seat Saab 2000s operated by Darwin Airline before Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways took a 33-percent stake in the Lugano-based carrier in January.
UAE national carrier Etihad Airways unveiled its first branded regional airline operation–Etihad Regional–at the Dubai Airshow yesterday. Etihad is launching the regional operation after acquiring a 33.3-percent stake in Swiss carrier Darwin Airline.
Swiss regional airline Baboo, based in Geneva, and Darwin Airline, headquartered at Lugano Airport in southern Switzerland, an-nounced in late November that they have decided to merge. In fact, the move looked more like a takeover by Darwin of a competitor plagued by a notorious lack of profits.
Switzerland’s regional scheduled airlines seem relatively well prepared to face a passenger slump expected to last through next year. After a frantic build-up period in the early years of the current decade, followed by a shakeout, the four majors appear entrenched in their respective markets.
Major structural changes announced by Swiss International Airlines in June include a considerable reduction of the company’s regional network with the start of its winter timetable, in late October. But while Swiss frantically clutches for a financial lifeline, there appears no shortage of newcomers willing to fill the airline’s shoes.
The company that launched the Saab 340 into prominence in Europe will soon bow out of the turboprop flying business altogether, when Swiss International Airlines bids adieu to the last of its 50-seat Saab 2000s this month and embarks on a restructuring of its regional jet fleet that will also banish all nine of the carrier’s Embraer 145s by March.
Switzerland’s long ambulatory regional airline business finally appears headed toward recovery, having registered an increase in passenger boardings for the first time in several years during this year’s first semester.