Italian new entrant Gandalf Airlines is to launch operations from Bergamo at the end of this month and will take delivery of four Fairchild Dornier 328JETs between September and December.

Initial flights will be operated to Munich and Stuttgart in Germany, using two 328 turboprops dry-leased from the manufacturer, but other European destinations will be added when the jet fleet arrives.

The aircraft deal covers options on eight further 328JETs scheduled for delivery between 2000 and mid-2001, and then the two leased 328s can be returned upon delivery of the fifth and sixth aircraft, although a purchase option is included in the contract.

Milan-based Gandalf is being set up to cash in on the market which its backers believe is emerging as airlines switch flights from Linate to the new airport at Malpensa. Founding director Domiziano Boschi says the changeover is making it more convenient for people living to the east of the city to use Gandalf's Milan Orio airport hub at Bergamo instead of Malpensa to the west.

Boschi and two of his associates left the consultancy McKinsey a year ago to set up the airline. "We all had some experience with airline studies, mainly on behalf of Alitalia," he says.

"We started to make up our minds what would happen once Malpensa was opened, and discovered that Orio could play a role in this new traffic system," Boschi adds.

Initially, the network expansion is likely to be concentrated on Germany, with Düsseldorf, Cologne/Bonn and Berlin Tempelhof under consideration. "We are also interested in other destinations outside Germany," says Boschi. "Barcelona, for example, would be a very good route."

Gandalf will lease its 31-seat 328JETs from a consortium of banks led by Italy's Unicredito, which also holds a 12.5% stake in the airline.

Source: Flight International