“The ATR is an airplane that is built for fuel economy. Given that fuel is one of the 3 largest portions of an airlines annual operating budget this is a big deal.”
After reading BFP’s “What’s with LIAT’s choice for new aircraft?”, I have to conclude that Adrian Loveridge might be a tourism expert – but he is no aviation expert and that is certain. Let me give you some enlightenment on the aircraft choice here in question.
For one the Caribbean market is a small and fragmented. Experience has shown that the 50 seat size is about the largest size of aircraft that is sustainable on inter-regional routes. Even so there are many routes which will struggle to fill 50 seats. This is why for years LIAT continued to operate 3 Dash 8-100s. With 37 seats they could provide route frequency on certain lower density routes and still maintain high load factors. Any time you are flying around with empty seats its bad for business and flying around below your breakeven load factor just means that segment is losing money and being subsidised by other routes.
Herein lies the inherent problem with the Q400. It is a 70 seat aircraft.
Additionally it is also a turbo-prop designed as a light jet replacement what that means is that yes, while it is fast it achieves this speed by giving up fuel efficiency. The break even for an industry standard Q400 on the high density low cost Indian and European markets is approximately 57 – 60% It is estimated that in the higher cost operating environment in the Caribbean the breakeven load factor for the Q400 would be in the range of 66 – 70% which means you would need to fill 45 – 47 seats approximately on average just to break even. This would prove difficult in the current travel climate in the Caribbean.
The other problem with the Q400 is airfield limitations. Some airfields in the LIAT network would require the aircraft to be weight limited for departure due to the field length or the proximity of terrain and obstacles or tailwinds. St. Vincent is not the only consideration. This means possibly cutting some services (Nevis for example) and that you would be limited as to how many passengers and bags you can carry out of some places.
For this trade off what does the Q400 bring to the table? Effectively nothing. Continue reading