Star Alliance member and SAS subsidiary Spanair has approached Spanish regional governments to discuss launching regional operations from secondary airports in Spain, in competition with de-facto monopoly holder and Iberia franchise carrier Air Nostrum.

Local government sources say Spanair officials have approached them saying that the airline will "expand next year into new regional markets". One source says Spanair mentioned the possibility of operating "55-seater aircraft". Another says that "Spanair suggested it plans to operate more than 20 regional aircraft, to be introduced in two phases, starting around the second quarter 2005".

Spanair denies the plans. "We are categorically saying that we have no plans to operate regional aircraft," it says. Despite this, in a recent agreement with pilots the company committed to "significantly expanding its activity" on domestic and European routes, although it did not specify how this will be accomplished.

One government source says any Spanair move to break into the regional flights arena would be welcomed by his and other regional governments, who feel "uncomfortable" with "Air Nostrum's 'take it or leave it' attitude" over signing marketing agreements with regional airports. "We have to pay them a lot of money through a marketing deal and on top of that they take advantage of their local monopoly charging passengers high fares, "the source claims.

Source: Flight International