Austrian Airlines Group is to axe its entire Bombardier CRJ200 fleet early next year, part of a restructuring which will cut 14 aircraft from the 55 in its Austrian Arrows division.

Around 400 jobs are likely to be cut as a result although these will be among the 1,000 positions being shed under the reorganisation plans disclosed last week.

The 50-seat aircraft, which have long been under review by the carrier, are to be replaced with larger types already in the fleet in order to lower unit costs and improve the efficiency of its regional operation.

"Collapse in the high-price business travel market no longer allows us to operate aircraft with 50 seats profitably," says the carrier, which adds that it will take out the capacity from its Vienna-based fleet.

Its CRJs will be removed from service at the beginning of summer 2010 and Austrian will also reduce its Bombardier Q300 fleet, switching partly to Q400s instead.

Larger aircraft currently used on charter services will also be brought into the scheduled timetable.

Austrian Arrows' regional flights are operated by Tyrolean Airways, and Tyrolean managing director Manfred Helldoppler says: "We are holding to our strategy of being a network carrier with a focus on the markets in Central and Eastern Europe.

"However, we must respond to the massive changes in the market. We anticipate that demand for the high-price business travel segment will remain weak in the coming years. We must adjust our fleet structure to this development."

While the airline is discussing the headcount measures with its works councils, it warns that it may "not be entirely possible" to avoid redundancies - although it believes natural attrition could generate the cabin crew reduction needed.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news