Braathens Regional Looking to Expand ATR Fleet, Drops A220s

 - May 17, 2019, 2:44 PM
A Braathens Regional ATR 72-600 takes off on its "perfect flight" from Halmstad Airport in southwest Sweden on May 16.

Braathens Regional Airlines (BRA) will phase out all its aging Avro RJs by the end of March 2020 and expand its ATR fleet as part of its drive to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (CO2). The Sweden-based airline has set an internal target to have fossil-free operations by 2030. “We made a fleet transformation plan which will see us exit all our Avros. The owned fleet will comprise only ATRs,” BRA CCO Ulrika Matsgård told AIN following the operation of what the carrier dubbed the ‘Perfect Flight,’ with every element of the one-hour service from Halmstad City Airport to Bromma-Stockholm City Airport optimized to keep carbon emissions to a minimum.

The airline “decided not to fulfill the plan of buying Airbus A220s,” Matsgård said.  Braathens Leasing, the Malmö-based lessor and sister company of BRA, placed a firm order with Bombardier in 2011 for five CS100 and five CS300 jetliners—now named A220-100 and A220-300, respectively. It also took options on an additional 10 C Series aircraft. But the order proved quickly problematic, initially because of delays to the C Series introduction. Braathens, once scheduled to serve as the formal launch operator of the type, in 2017 postponed delivery of the aircraft again to the beginning 2020 and late last year said it was reviewing the order amid a difficult Swedish domestic market, the introduction of a new aviation tax on departing passengers in the country, and a weak Swedish krona.  

Airbus's order and deliveries overview at the end of April still showed a firm order for BRA for 10 A220-100s.

BRA, formed in 2016 through the merger of Malmö Aviation, Braathens Regional and the regional airlines of Sverigeflyg, flies 13 ATR 72s and 10 Avros. Matsgård indicated that the airline might not replace the Avros with an equal number of ATRs. “We still have some spare capacity," she said. "There is room to use our existing ATR fleet in a more efficient way.” She did not want to disclose how many additional ATRs BRA intends to buy or lease. The airline might also opt to lease, possibly wet-lease, some regional jets. “In total we will only have an ATR fleet owned by ourselves,” she said.

ATR senior vice president of programs and customer services Tom Anderson confirmed the existence of talks with BRA for “some” additional ATRs. He remained tightlipped on the size of the potential new order, but said the development of the discussions were “positive.”  Except for some longer sectors, the ATR 72-600 suits BRA’s network and commitment to reduce its CO2 footprint, he asserted. “Our ATR 72-600 version uses 40 percent less fuel and emits 40 percent less CO2 than a regional jet like the Bombardier CRJ900 or an Embraer E175.”

ATR served as one of the partners of BRA’s ‘Perfect Flight’ on May 16. Flight TF703 took off from Halmstad Airport in the southwest of Sweden at 10:05 am local time and landed at 11:15 am at Bromma with 72 passengers on board, and produced 46 percent less CO2 than the average of the same flights last year. A blend of 50 percent conventional jet fuel and 50 percent sustainable aviation fuel supplied by Air BP and produced by Neste powered the flight. Neste’s sustainable aviation fuel comes from non-palm renewable and sustainable materials, in this case used cooking oil. Other elements in the flight management process that contributed to reduce to carbon emissions included the direct flight path and higher cruising altitude, TF703 Captain Johan Molarin explained.  “The Swedish air navigation service provider prioritized the straightest possible route for the flight and a descent at reduced speed,” he told AIN.

The ‘Perfect Flight’ has highlighted “what is possible when we all work together,” noted Tom Parsons, Air BP’s commercial development manager as he called on the need for collaboration from all stakeholders. Also Andreas Teir, Neste's vice president in renewable transportation, emphasized that “decarbonizing aviation calls for close cooperation between aviation stakeholders combined with a strong willingness to work collaboratively.” Aviation stakeholders in Sweden, he said, have adopted a proactive approach to show their commitment to reducing emissions from their operations by promoting the use of renewable jet fuel.