Skywest to operate ATRs in Virgin Blue’s new regional strategy

Virgin Blue Group has announced it will introduce up to 18 ATR 72s as part of its recently announced strategic alliance with Skywest Airlines.

According to Virgin Blue Group chief executive officer and managing director John Borghetti, the first four of the 68-seat turboprops will be introduced from the middle of 2011, with a further four to arrive next year.

“The ATR is the best aircraft to operate on regional routes throughout Australia. It provides the greatest fuel efficiency and passenger comfort for this category of aircraft,” Borghetti commented. “The ATR will form the foundation of our regional network plans, with the first six ATRs replacing our current Embraer 170 fleet and the additional aircraft flying to new regional destinations.”

The alliance will see both airlines codeshare on a number of sectors and allow Velocity members to earn and redeem points. ATR chief executive officer Filippo Bagnato said ATR was extremely pleased to be selected for this important development and to be associated with such prestigious airline partners as Skywest Airlines and Virgin Blue.

The deal is a breakthrough for ATR which has few aircraft operating in Australia, with many carriers operating Bombardier turboprops.

Under the wet lease arrangement, Skywest will provide the technical and cabin crew and source the maintenance provider of the fleet.

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