Q400s: Europe’s regional airports continue to benefit despite this week’s grounding

Despite this week’s incidents involving landing gear failure, which grounded a few older Q400s, the rise in fuel costs means that turboprops such as the Q400 and ATR 42/72 have made something of a comeback.

Image: Grounded Aircraft

Significant European Q400 usage

No. Q400s No. of Routes
Austrian Arrows (formerly Tyrolean) 10 32
Flybe 33 (27 on order) 93
Lufthansa (Augsburg Airways) 6 12
Wideroe 4 (1 on order) 8
SAS 23 45
Source: ACAS, OAG Max Online for w/c 10 September 2007

In addition Luxair now has two Q400s in service (operating to Munich and Paris CDG) with one more on order and three further options. All of these carriers have configured their aircraft with between 70 and 72 seats with the exception of Flybe who have 78 seats.

Austrian Arrows operates as a feeder service at Vienna for Austrian and Augsburg Airways’ Q400 routes are all from Munich on short-haul international routes. Wideroe’s eight routes consist of four domestic and four international routes and SAS also operates a mix of domestic and international routes from Stockholm and Copenhagen. The routes range from 150 kilometre high frequency domestic routes from Copenhagen to Aarhus to 1,163 kilometre daily international routes from Stockholm to Düsseldorf.

Flybe’s “low-cost” variation

Flybe is the only airline to use the Q400 as part of a “low-cost” business model operating the aircraft on primarily short sectors where the aircraft’s lower maximum speed compared to a jet is less significant. Flybe already operates over 30 of the type with orders and options for 40 more. The aircraft suits the markets that Flybe serves, which are primarily from smaller regional airports.

Wide variety of sector lengths

An analysis of the sector lengths of routes operated by the Q400 in Europe shows that over half of the routes operated are between 300 and 600 kilometres in length.

The shortest sector is Flybe’s 38 kilometre flight between the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey. Eleven routes (6% of total) are over 1,000 kilometres in length. Flybe was forced to cancel 34 flights on Thursday 13 September representing around 7% of all flights. Domestic routes from Norwich, Exeter and Manchester suffered most disruption. It expects normal service to be resumed by the weekend.

Chart: Sector length of Q400 routes in Europe
Source: UK CAA
The longest route operated is Flybe’s the 1,265km weekly service between Edinburgh and Bergerac- a two hour 25 minute journey.

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