ATR in major Japanese boost

ATR looks set for a major boost in the Japanese market after a Letter of Intent (LoI) for a large number of aircraft was inked at the Farnborough Airshow.

This came after Feel Air Holdings signed a LoI with the Franco-Italian airframer – pictured here – for up to 36 of its turboprop aircraft.

According to ATR, Feel Air – a new Japanese regional airline holding company – will field a fleet comprising several turboprop types, namely the ATR 42-600, larger ATR 72-600, as well as the short take-off and landing (STOL) ATR 42-600S variant – all which would be plied on domestic rotations.

If realised, this would be a major boost for ATR in Japan; at present, a trio of operators fly a combined 15 ATR aircraft across the Far East nation – while the airframer added that two more customers are set to fly Franco-Italian-built types “in the coming months” from the time of writing.

Hideki Ide, chief executive officer of Feel Air Holdings, said: “Over the coming years, Feel Air Holdings will establish at least five regional airlines, with a fleet that will ultimately comprise 36 ATR aircraft. Our fundamental goal is to improve regional air mobility in Japan by connecting local destinations that currently do not have air service, thereby creating stronger links between regional businesses and people, generating new markets, and enriching local economies. ATR aircraft play an essential part in our business strategy because they are the ideal size for such regional operations and demonstrate exceptional operational efficiency.”

Feel Air Holdings signed a LoI with the Franco-Italian airframer for up to 36 aircraft at the Farnborough Airshow
Feel Air Holdings signed a LoI with the Franco-Italian airframer for up to 36 aircraft at the Farnborough Airshow ATR

Taiichi Kojima, president of Feel Air Holdings, added: “Feel Air Holdings aims to bring a new dynamic to Japanese regional air travel, making it more versatile, more meaningful, and more accessible to all. Thanks to their reduced CO2 emissions and fuel efficiency, ATR aircraft can help us to do this in a sustainable manner, allowing us to contribute actively to local communities while also protecting Japan’s many beautiful natural landscapes.”

Stefano Bortoli, ATR chief executive officer, also added: “Air transport is crucial for Japan’s islands and regions, and the establishment of Feel Air will help connect Japan’s regions affordably and sustainably. At ATR, we want to help ensure that aviation and Feel Air in particular can contribute to a prosperous future for Japan. Together, we will explore many opportunities for our versatile and sustainable turboprops in the coming years, to further support Japan’s economic development and its need for quick, reliable and responsible essential services.“

Using a unique franchise business structure, Feel Air Holdings aims to cover different areas of Japan by “gradually” establishing a family of regional airlines. According to the company, its first airline will be called Feel Air EAST, which is earmarked to start operations in 2024.