Air Canada has for now shelved plans to modernise its regional carriers' fleets with new aircraft as a result of recently announced cutbacks in services and capacity in the face of an economic downturn.

"We've cut back our schedule so there is zero capacity growth this coming year," says Adrian Wijeyewickrema, Air Canada manager, product innovation. The carrier had been looking at acquiring a minimum of 45 new regional aircraft and possibly as many as 150, but has been forced to drop plans for an 8% growth in capacity.

Air Canada would return to the plan if it reports "some reasonably good figures", adds Wijeyewickrema. The carrier needs to replace Canadian Regional's 32 FokkerF-28 Mk1000/3000s, which have to be phased out by 2005.

A new contract with pilots allows the mainline carrier's 25 Bombardier CRJ-100ERs to be passed down to a regional. Without any incremental growth in the mainline fleet, however, Air Canada is effectively prevented from introducing any more regional jets.

The carrier was looking at a mixture of CRJ-200s and Dash 8Q400 turboprops, says Wijeyewickrema. Scope limits on the size of aircraft and the requirement for a two-class cabin have ruled out the larger 70-seat CRJ700 and 86-seat CRJ-900.

The rest of Air Canada's regional fleet comprises 85 37/50-seat Dash 8-100/300s operated by Air Ontario, Canadian Regional Air BC and Air Nova. The latter two carriers also operate 10 BAE 146 jets, which are "grandfathered" in and are scope exempt.

Source: Flight International