Augsburg eyes more Q400s - not jets - for expanded ops

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German regional airline Augsburg Airways is to continue charter operations despite downsizing and will also look at fleet renewal opportunities such as the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400.

The carrier cut costs and restructured its operations to become a pure wet-lease airline for Lufthansa. Augsburg had originally acted as a franchise operator for Team Lufthansa but decided to cut its loss-making scheduled service and more costly franchise service last month.

Now the carrier says it hopes to broaden its work for Lufthansa but will maintain its brand identity through continuing its own charter services.

Augsburg president Manfred Scholz says: “If you fly with Team Lufthansa you have to be careful with your brand and keep your brand in the market.

“We will strengthen our marketing inside Germany and within Europe. Secondly we will look at a charter business. The charter business can be a very profitable business.”

He says that the airline will probably use its two Dash 8-200s and two Dash 8-300s for charter services. The remaining nine Dash 8-300s and three Q400s are committed to Lufthansa as part of the wet-lease deal, although Scholz adds that the airline will need to discuss with Lufthansa whether it is possible to release some of the Q400s for weekend charter service.

So far for this year the airline has charter contracts for Croatia, Sardinia, Slovenia and Greece. A re-jigging of its fleet will depend on charter contracts for next year.

Separately it is looking to renew its fleet and is considering adding more Q400s while it withdraws from service its smaller and older Dash 8-200s and some of its Dash 8-300s.

The airline plans to renegotiate the lease terms on the aircraft with the German banks that hold the agreements as part of cost-cutting efforts.

Scholz says: “In our view we have to take care that we share in the growth in the next couple of years in the regional airline market. We have to increase the 12 aircraft [operating for Lufthansa]. We will increase in the same way the market is increasing in the future.”

At the same time more aircraft will be necessary to meet potential growth. Scholz stresses that the airline has been happy with the Q400 aircraft and will consider acquiring more for its fleet.

Scholz adds: “The Q400 is a very comfortable plane and it is a 72-seater that is what we need for the business we are in.” He notes that the airline will continue to operate turboprops and not jets in the future, which fits well with its position within the Lufthansa group.