KLM will finalise plans by the end of the year to re-organise its regional-airline partners under one umbrella operation. Details of the initiative, which is being led by Air UK at London Stansted, are still being thrashed out, but in one option a single identity could be adopted.

Partners include the KLM Cityhopper subsidiary and Air Exel Commuter in the Netherlands, as well as the now-wholly-owned Air UK and Germany's Eurowings with which KLM has a series of codeshares. KLM also has a controlling stake in the Dutch charter airline Transavia, and has signed for a 30% stake in Norwegian carrier Braathens SAFE.

Airline sources discount rumours that the new grouping will operate under a "KLM Express" banner, but Tony Camacho, Air UK's commercial director, confirms that a study is under way to examine KLM's "relationship with its feeder partners". He says that this is focusing on three strands: a "link" between the partners, an "endorsement" from the KLM name and a "local market focus". Possible developments include a complete name-change and a new colour-scheme for the partners.

Camacho says that the plans will be finalised by the end of the year, with the strategy being formally announced at the beginning of 1998."All the partners will be invited to join, with Air UK most likely to be the first, but we won't do it unilaterally," he says.

Meanwhile, KLM Cityhopper's fleet of 11 Saab 340Bs is being disposed of, with some six aircraft believed to have been sold already. The airline is expected to replace the aircraft with three ex-Rio Sul Fokker 50s leased from Debis AirFinance and, possibly, two more Fokker 70s.

KLM is refining its daily wave connecting system at Schiphol, with its three-block system being spread more evenly into a four-block routine.

Source: Flight International