Nok Air to introduce Q400s to fleet

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Thai carrier Nok Air will be introducing Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s to its operations, a move away from the ATR turboprops already in its fleet.

Sources familiar with the discussions say Nok has recently signed an agreement to purchase four Q400s directly from Bombardier.

When contacted, Nok chief executive Patee Sarasin confirms that the carrier will be introducing four Q400s into its operations.

He explains that the turboprop is of the "right capacity", are faster and have been recommended by his maintenance team. He adds that being the first carrier in the region to operate the turboprop, Nok expects to receive stronger support from the aircraft manufacturer.

The Don Mueang-based carrier has two ATR 72-200s and two ATR 72-500s in its fleet, alongside 14 Boeing 737-800s. Its ATRs are from shareholder Thai Airways, while the 737s are all on lease mostly from GECAS, BBAM and SMBC Aviation Capital. It also has five Saab 340s, operated on its behalf by Siam General Aviation under the Nok Mini brand.

Sources say that the the carrier is set to return the two ATR 72-200s to Thai this year, while the ATR 72-500s will stay in its fleet till 2014.

In an investor presentation in September, Nok said it plans to grow its fleet to 33 aircraft by 2015, comprising 22 737s, five Saab 340s and six turboprops.

The Q400s can offer an additional eight seats compared with the ATR 72, considering its capacity for up to 80 passengers. It also has a longer range of 1,014nm (1,870km), more than the 890nm that the ATR 72-500 offers.

Flightglobal's Ascend Online Fleets shows that there are 90 Q400s operated in Asia-Pacific by carriers such as Air Niugini and ANA Wings.