"For most airlines, passengers are coming back, but yield isn't." The comment comes from Michael Magnusson, president of Saab Aircraft Leasing (SAL) who believes that the much-vaunted rise of regional jets (RJs) is slowing and has certain natural limits.

A result of the continuing financial trough is that "many airlines are getting out of routes they have operated for years", he said at Farnborough, citing the example of SAS, which "a fortnight ago pulled out of routes they have been flying for 40 years".

Frequently, he says, routes are dropped at short notice by the larger airlines. This gives an opportunity to smaller, more agile regional operators that can move quickly to pick up the pieces and keep routes operating.

Magnusson announced new lease arrangements to two carriers doing exactly that: Paris-based Air Jet is taking on a second and third Saab 2000 to operate the Toulouse and Bordeaux to Geneva sectors formerly operated by Swisswings on behalf of Crossair; and Glasgow-based Loganair, which is taking on a further two Saab 340Bs (taking its fleet to seven) to bolster its role as a British Airways franchise carrier as the national carrier sheds thinner routes in Scotland. In addition, Air Jet is considering a further three Saab 2000s to operate routes including Le Havre to Brussels, while Loganair has taken an option on an eighth 340B.


Despite the rush – particularly in the USA – to replace turboprops with regional, says Magnusson, turboprops still account for 81% worldwide of all departures up to 300 miles (480km), a drop of just 6% since last year.

"I would argue this process will slow down because the regional jets have now taken all the ‘low-hanging fruit'. It's not as easy to find profitable RJ routes in the US now."

Additionally, the large US regional airlines, which have ditched scores of turboprops in the last year, are increasingly coming up against the limits of scope clauses, he notes.

Other lease announcements from SAL include a single Saab 2000 for OLT of Germany, to operate a daily Bremen – Toulouse corporate shuttle service for Airbus Industrie. Värmlandsflyg of Sweden is taking a Saab 340A to replace a Beech 1900.

The prototype Saab 340 freighter, being converted by Field Aviation, should be ready by next month.

Source: Flight Daily News