Andrzej Jeziorski/MUNICH

LUFTHANSA CITYLINE is to hand over its Fokker 50 operations to partner Contact Air to enable it to concentrate on jet-airliner operations. In a related move, Contact Air is to return five de Havilland Dash 8-300s to the Canadian manufacturer.

The move, approved by the Lufthansa supervisory board on 6 December, will allow Contact Air to operate CityLine's ten-aircraft turboprop fleet under contract.

The Lufthansa airline began replacing its turboprop fleet in 1994 with its first Canadair Regional Jets, reducing the combined Fokker/de Havilland fleet from 25 to the current 15 aircraft. The move was driven by passenger preference for jet-powered aircraft.

"We believe that the Fokker 50 is the best turboprop you can buy, but, whenever the customer has a choice, he will choose a jet," says CityLine managing director Karl-Friedrich Rausch.

The airline had planned to have only six Fokker 50s left by the end of 1996, but has now decided to extend the lease on an additional four, and then hand over the operations of all ten aircraft to Stuttgart-based partner Contact Air.

The aircraft, and routes, will be switched to Contact Air by May 1997, with the five Dash 8s returning to de Havilland by April 1997.

CityLine will boost its jet fleet during 1996, from 19 Canadair Regional Jets and nine Avro RJ85s, to 28 Canadairs and 15 Avros. CityLine Fokker 50 crews will be retrained for the jet-aircraft fleet.

Rausch says that the airline also needs 70-seat-class jet aircraft. The airline has been evaluating the proposed stretched Canadair RJ-X, but says that, to maintain comfort standards, CityLine could only fly the aircraft with 64 passengers and would be more interested in a larger aircraft.

Source: Flight International