ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Thursday June 13, 2013 – The financially strapped regional airline, LIAT, Thursday announced it had taken possession of an ATR 72-600 aircraft as it upgrades its aging fleet.
The airline said the French-manufactured ATR is being leased from the lessor GECAS (GE Capital Aviation Services) and “is the first of a total of eight ATRs -four 68-seat ATR 72-600 and four 48-seat ATR 42-600s- that will be introduced into LIAT’s fleet.
“The introduction of these brand new ATR-600s in LIAT’s current fleet of 14 aircraft is a part of the airline’s restructuring plans aiming at fleet modernization and network improvements. By progressively replacing its current fleet of former turboprop aircraft with the modern and fuel efficient ATRs, the airline will significantly reduce operating and maintenance costs, gain further in profitability and offer more comfort to its passengers due to its enhanced seats design,” the airline said in a statement.
At the moment, the Antigua-based carrier has a fleet of 18 Dash-8 aircraft, with 15 that have a seating capacity of 50 and three 37-seater planes.
LIAT, which flies to 21 destinations in the Caribbean, has put a price tag of US$100 million on the re-fleeting exercise and said it is seeking to borrow between US$60 and US$70 million from the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).
The Antigua-based airline last December unveiled a new business plan it said would help reverse an EC$43 million (One EC Dollar = US0.37 cents) loss in 2011 while projecting a two per cent profit in 2013.
The LIAT statement said the line-up of the full new generation ATR model range will allow LIAT to optimize their fleet on their pan-Caribbean network with aircraft of one same family, offering both 50 and 70 seat capacity.
“LIAT currently connects 21 destinations throughout the Caribbean with most routes under 100 Nm, like Grenada to Trinidad, or Dominica to Antigua. The 68-seat ATR 72-600s are perfectly adapted to many of our existing and potential routes,” said the airline’s chief executive officer, Ian Brunton.
“By renewing our fleet our customers will enjoy more efficiency and better travel experience. The ATR 72-600 perfectly fits with our requirements in terms of low operating costs, most updated technologies and optimal comfort.
“This is the most-recently certified turboprop aircraft on the market, and we are proud to start our operations with such a modern, successful and well-reputed aircraft,” he added.
LIAT said the new ATR 72-600 should be in service before the end of the month with the remaining aircraft expected for delivery during 2013 and 2014.