Hungarian flag-carrier Malev is to acquire up to 12 Bombardier Q400 turboprops to replace its Bombardier CRJ200s and Fokker 70 regional aircraft from next year.

Malev is to acquire four second-hand Q400s this year, for the initial phase of the replacement, and it plans to add four new aircraft from 2012. A further four aircraft will be optioned for delivery from 2013.

The carrier, which disclosed the agreement during the Farnborough air show, says the Q400s will replace four CRJs and five Fokker 70s. It will begin phasing these aircraft out in 2009.

Malev says it aims to “reinforce its regional market position” through the fleet replacement, and has signed an agreement covering the terms of the plan.

While the source of the second-hand Q400s has yet to be confirmed, the airline says that the four aircraft are six-year old examples. It says these will be acquired in autumn in time for winter services.

“In view of the high kerosene prices afflicting the airline industry globally, the consumptions characteristics and reduced environmental impact of the Q400 aircraft will assist in ensuring the highly-efficient operation of Malev,” says chief Peter Leonov.

Eight Q400s would provide 22% more capacity than the current jet fleet, adds the airline, the equivalent of $10 million in additional revenue per year.

The status of the agreement for new aircraft is unclear. Bombardier has not issued a statement confirming the order, and Malev says the value of an order would be $113 million, based on catalogue prices, “in the event of a final agreement”.

This figure would rise to $226 million if all the options were exercised.

Malev, which had been viewed as a potential Sukhoi Superjet customer, says it will decide in 2010 whether to retain the four second-hand Q400s as the first new turboprops arrive, and whether it will firm its options on the additional examples.

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Source: Flight International