Lois Jones LONDON Fierce competition from low-cost carriers at its London Stansted base is forcing KLM uk to rethink its market position and restructure. Launching its own no-frills service is one possibility.

The KLM regional subsidiary is to axe six unprofitable routes from 12 September and streamline its fleet. The carrier's 17 Fokker 100s and nine Fokker 50s will go to the core Amsterdam feeder service, the 10 BAe 146s will fly on point-to-point routes from London Stansted, and five ATR 72s will be leased.

"We've been looking at the size of the airline and all its different kinds of aircraft types," says Tony Camacho, KLM uk's network organiser. "We want to concentrate on doing a few things well in terms of logistics."

KLM uk also intends to look at its positioning in the market. "We're not at the premium end of the market, nor are we a no-frills carrier," says Camacho. "We're positioned in the middle and over the next couple of months we need to decide where we want to be."

KLM uk has recently been concentrating on building business class services from Stansted, where it has invested in two business class lounges. But increasing pressure from low-cost operators at Stansted is prompting KLMukto consider fighting like with like by setting up its own no-frills operation. "A low-cost operation is one option we're examining," says Camacho.

KLM uk faces the threat of easyJet's arrival at Stansted in November and competition from rivals Ryanair and the British Airways low-cost subsidiary, Go.

Financial analysts remain sceptical about KLM uk's low-cost ambitions. "Amsterdam doesn't have an indigenous stronghold market and needs feed from other places," says one aviation analyst. "The vehicle for that network feed is KLM uk. You're either a network feeder or a low-cost airline - no one has yet to be both." He says KLM's partner, Transavia, may be a more suitable low-cost vehicle. "Transavia has a loyal following in the Netherlands, a strong product, a low-cost base and the right fleet - almost all its aircraft are Boeing 747s. I don't know how KLM uk would dare to compete head-to-head with Go at Stansted."

Others warn of brand confusion if KLM uk were to set up a low-cost operation. "I already think of KLM uk as a place to go for a good price," says one. "It could be quite confusing."

Source: Airline Business