Greek airline SKY express has signed a deal to acquire five more ATR 72-600 aircraft. The Heraklion-based airline took delivery of its first ATR 72-600 in late June. This new deal will see a further five ATR 72-600 joining its fleet over the next 12 months.
“We are expanding and modernizing our fleet, increasing the number of destinations, and developing our operations,” says SKY express’ Ioannis Grylos in a statement. “The acquisition of six new state-of-the-art ATR 72-600 aircraft is yet another landmark in SKY express’ course.”
ATR 72-600 perfectly matches Sky express’ needs
SKY express already operates a fleet of 17 planes, including 10 aircraft from the ATR-500 series. Two key ATR 72-600 operating characteristics have caught the eye of SKY express executives. Like airline bosses everywhere, they appreciate a fuel-efficient plane. The ATR 72-600 burns up to 40% less fuel and emits up to 40% less CO2 than a comparable regional jet.
The second characteristic is relatively specific to SKY express. Many of the Greek islands have small airports with short runways. The ATR 72-600 has a take-off distance of just 1,279 meters (4,196 feet) and a landing distance of 915 meters (3,002feet). SKY express flies to 48 destinations in nine countries. The airline also operates the largest network in Greece, flying to 35 domestic and regional airports. They need planes capable of handling Greece’s many short runways.
“ATR aircraft are well suited to serving islands with their ability to take-off and land from runways other aircraft simply cannot access, and this is essential for regional operations in a country such as Greece,” says Sky Express President Theodoros Krokidas.
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Fleet renewal underway at SKY express
The deal is part of a fleet renewal process at SKY express. Aside from the just delivered ATR 72-600, the remaining 10 ATRs in the fleet comprise five ATR 72-500s with an average age of 19.4 years and five ATR 42-500s with an average age of 24.3 years. As the new ATR 72-600s start landing at Heraklion, the airline will start retiring their old ATRs. The regional plane manufacturer says its 72-600 sets the sustainable benchmark in contemporary regional aviation.
“Studies have shown that an increase of 10% in regional flights can lead to a 5% increase in local GDP, proving the value of regional air transportation and the fundamental role of regional connectivity,” says ATR Chief Executive Stefano Bortoli.
“Moving from the -500 to the -600 series shows the value of our continuous development policy. SKY express will benefit from the latest-generation upgradeable avionics suite, and its passengers will enjoy a modern, comfortable cabin. This is an investment in the most efficient and eco-responsible regional aircraft, and it is an ideal time to do so.”
Fast expansion at Sky express in 2021
Flying for just 16 years, SKY express is Greece’s third-largest airline. However, the airline claims the largest network and fastest-growing status. SKY express takes its green credentials seriously, and a potential plane’s environmental footprint is a factor in any purchase/lease decision. Aside from its ATRs, Sky express also flies six Airbus A320 neos.
But being green doesn’t come cheap. For any airline, a commitment is to remain ecologically responsible involves a series of trade-offs between cost and operational requirements. However, ATR reckons choosing one of their planes is a no-brainer.
“Thanks to the efficiency of turboprop technology and the benefits of the company’s focus on continuous innovation, ATR aircraft open more than 100 new routes every year, burn up to 40% less fuel and emit up to 40% less CO2 than regional jets,” ATR says on its website. “For all of these reasons, ATR aircraft have been chosen by some 200 companies in 100 countries around the world.”
Burning just 2.8 liters per 100 kilometers on a per-seat basis, ATR says their 72-600 plane offers up to US$1 million in savings compared to operating a comparable sized plane. That equates to a 20% trip cost advantage and a 10% seat cost advantage.
“At SKY express our commitment to a” cleaner” future for flights is perpetual. It is proven with our investments in new-generation aircraft that save fuel and reduce environmental footprint,” says Theodoros Krokidas.
SKY express also eyes renewal with A320neos
SKY express is making a fast comeback this year after a tough 2020. In November, the first of their six A320 neos landed. The jets allowed SKY Express to expand its wings and launch flights further afield. By mid-December, the Airbus was deployed between Athens (ATH) and Thessaloniki (SKG). In February, the new A320s allowed SKY Express to start its first international flight to Larnaca (LCA). SKY express flies to nine countries, adding Rome (FCO) to its network only late last week.
“The acquisition of six brand new Α320neo aircraft meets our ambition to modernize our fleet and have our company transition to a new era,” said Ioannis Grylos late last year.
Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer called the purchase of the A320neos by SKY express a “bold deal,” adding the aircraft manufacturer was pleased to contribute to SKY express’ growth.
“The combination of the most advanced technology along with the fuel efficiency that this type of aircraft offers are elements that perfectly match the business planning of SKY express for a contemporary fleet that respects the environment and offers safe and quality services to its passengers,” continued Mr Grylos.
SKY express well-positioned for post downturn flying
The SKY express fleet is perfectly sized for the post-travel downturn flying era. Aviation experts predict a trend toward smaller planes flying relatively point-to-point short sectors. Passengers will want to fly from A to B as quickly as possible. The airlines will want to do so as efficiently as possible. With its new planes, SKY express is lining up nicely to meet these demands.
Smaller planes like the ATR 72-600 also suit regional flying, a vital part of the aviation sector. But the costs associated with regional flying have seen the sector gradually shrink worldwide. Efficient planes like the ATR are sold as a panacea to that trend.
“Fleet replacement is critical in regional aviation or vital connections risk being lost, which would have a significant impact on the communities they serve,” says ATR’s Stefano Bortoli. The success of the ATR program suggests there’s life in regional flying yet. ATR’s 42 and 72 aircraft are the world’s best-selling aircraft in the less than 90-seat market segment, helping the manufacturer turnover US$1.6 billion in 2019.
ATR’s latest customer, SKY express, is counting on the plane continuing to bolster its fortunes. The outstanding ATR 72-600s are due to arrive at SKY express over the next year.