Flybe endorses Bombardier as Q400 confirmed core craft for future plans
Regional airline Flybe, which flies to 15 UK destinations from Belfast, has said Bombardier's Q400 is centre to its future plans despite a fleet reduction.
In a welcome endorsement for Bombardier, Flybe said the turboprop would remain its core aircraft as it was faster than the alternatives in its category, with a performance close to jet aircraft over the relatively short distances flown by the airline.
Bombardier's Belfast workforce carries out design and manufacture of wing-mounted flight components for the Q400.
Flybe, which has eight aircraft in Belfast, said the turboprop was also cheaper to operate than similar-sized jets, and also less noisy.
However, it said it had handed back six older Q400s as part of a process of reducing its fleet size as it focuses on profitable routes.
But the airline is not believed to be reducing frequency or routes from Belfast and is launching a new route to Doncaster in Yorkshire next month.
As part of the present process, it's also handing back its nine Embraer 195 jets.
Flybe chief executive Christine Ourmieres-Widener said: "We examined exhaustively all the options and concluded the Bombardier Q400 is the best core aircraft for us.
"Its superior economy, speed and quietness is ideal for a regional airline such as ourselves. Together with a number of Embraer E175s, our future fleet will be the optimum required for our specific regional route network."
Fred Cromer, president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, added: "We are delighted that Flybe, our long-term customer and largest Q400 operator, remains committed to the Q400 as its preferred turboprop.
"With its jet-like performance, industry-leading reliability and unbeatable economics, we are glad that the Q400 turboprop will continue to support Flybe as the airline further imposes itself as one of Europe's leading regional providers."
Roy Kinnear, who is originally from Keady in Co Armagh, was appointed Flybe chief operating officer earlier this year. He said the airline was a hidden success story in the province.
"How many people know we fly to 15 cities directly out of Belfast, apart from the obvious like London and Manchester? I think that's a hidden gem," he said.
Mr Kinnear added one of his first big tasks in the job will be to change its technology platform.
"We need to because the world diversifies," he added. "We need to improve our reservations and need to improve our airport check-in systems to make it easier to book and fly."
Mr Kinnear described it as "the single-largest technology investment Flybe has made in its history".