UTAir plans standalone ATR 42 operator

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Russian carrier UTAir is planning to create a special subsidiary to provide local services using an all-turborpop fleet of ATR-42s.

The new operator, tentatively called UTAir-Express, will be set up on the basis of Komiinteravia, in which UTAir acquired a 70% shareholding a year ago.

At the time, Komiinteravia operated 18 ageing Tupolev Tu-134s. Under the business plan, the parent company will first swap them for 17 Antonov An-24 and a pair of ATR-42-300 turboprops.

“We’ll receive five more ATR-42s before the end of this year and increase their number to around 20 by 2012,” says UTAir general manager Andrei Martirosov, indicating that all An-24s will be gradually replaced on local and regional services. “To be more efficient, this business should be run separately from our mainline passenger operation.”

UTAir-Express is due to be operational next year. As handler of a single-type modern fleet, it is designed to become a profit centre and, possibly, an operator specialising on low-cost and short-haul services.

“All major network airlines tend to serve these segments through their standalone divisions,” says Martirosov. “ We’re just following the global trend.”

UTAir last year transported 1.83 million passengers and made net profits of Rb200 million ($7.4 million).