PARIS 2009: Air Nostrum shifting to higher-capacity types

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Air Nostrum, which has revealed firm orders for 35 Bombardier CRJ1000s and 10 ATR 72-600s at the Paris Air Show, is looking to move into larger regional aircraft operations to counter dwindling yields.

Speaking to ATI at the show today, Air Nostrum CEO Carlos Bertomeu said: "Now we operate 66 aircraft, the majority of which are in the 50-seat segment. With the yields that we are seeing now, it is hard to make money with 50-seaters."

He says that between 2010 and 2015 Air Nostrum's fleet will be revamped to focus on 70- to 100-seat operations. Once the process is completed, the Spanish regional carrier's fleet will be rationalised to "a minimum of 55 aircraft", says Bertomeu.

In the meantime Air Nostrum is looking to cut frequencies and ground a further five aircraft, in addition to the five Bombardier Q300s which it withdrew in March. "I want to stop the operation of another five aircraft in October to adapt new circumstances of the market," says Bertomeu.

The five aircraft to be pulled from the fleet in October will be a mix of Bombardier CRJ200s and Q300s.

Despite the shift in focus, Bertomeu still sees a role within Air Nostrum's fleet for "some" 50-seaters. "They are a very good instrument for developing new routes, but I don't see myself investing in new 50-seaters," he says. "We have a lot of CRJ200s which will come to the end of their financing in three to five years and then we will decide what we will do."

Air Nostrum is planning to operate its ATR 72-600s in a single-class configuration with a moveable curtain, but will not take advantage of the manufacturer's newly-announced forward door option.

"With the forward door you lose a lot of space. We have our business class at the back [of the ATR 72-500s] so that our premium passengers are closer to the exit, and the toilet at the rear of the aircraft," says Bertomeu.