Pointless or not?

Hi, is there really any point in the PZL - AN-28, Pilatus - PC-12, Cessna - 208 Caravan, Islander / Trislander, AN-38, and DHC-6 to be in the game, other than being eye candy? I’m not sure if I have ever seen any of these aircraft operated to a profit. Especially when the Do228 and Let 410 are legitimate options.

Not.
At least not in general.
People usually make the error to judge profit/loss on a per aircraft or even just on a per flight basis. The airframes you mention often serve as feeders.

When operated in a hub/wave system you get connecting pax. Even though your flight costing on a - say- 10 pax DH6 may be negative, those 10 could connect on to a highly profitable longhaul, making your DH6 very well profitable.

Questions would be:

  • do I need that type of aircraft?
  • does it fit my maint categories?
  • do I have connections?
  • do those additional feeder pax contribute to a positive margin? (where do they connect to?)
  • do I have the slots at hub?
  • or could the slot be used more profitable otherwise?

You see, the answer to the question can be complex.

Btw, I had the DH6 as feeder from/to Saba. All questions were answered positive, all, but one: I finally discontinued service in favour for another A321 on this slot.

I used numerous PC12 in the past and they are not to hard to operate with a profit. If you have the option between leaving airports aside or attach them with a small aircraft I would choose the second option. Even if the small Props hardly make any profit most of the passengers are connecting passengers, so latest at their second flight you earn money with them. The new version of the PC12 (not the NG, the even more modern version NGX) should make it much easier to make a profit with it if it gets implemented. Additionally with a single pilot certification and no cabin crews small aircraft hardly have any running costs if you buy them. A leasing fleet from my point of view is not recommended.

Some people operate them, I once did. But considering it takes the same amount of time to schedule a DHC6 as it does to schedule an A321 it certainly isn’t worth the time. When you get to the point in game when the only factor slowing growth is the time you have to schedule it is utterly useless to fly DHC6s. Honestly a route which cant at least handle a CRJ is unnecessary to be operated.

I think it would depend. It could be a great way to add more connections to your network at a lower cost. It would only make sense if the person operates those planes under a subsidiary for regional purposes(to avoid the image hit). And it would also make sense if many airports have only 1 bar in your area.

I think those would be factors of consideration. I would avoid those kinds of planes in major markets but in certain Asian, south american and/or African countries there could be an advantage to having these types of planes operating to help support your longer range portfolio.

Certainly, if you have the time to schedule and the slots available. In my experience I usually had neither. Eventhough Indonesia has a bunch of small (and short runway) airports but I wasn’t able to integrate them into my network. I had to fly 100 A380s on domestic routes just to save slots so there would have been no space for 9 seaters. In Europe, US and China everything was also always slot constrained. Plus that with the introduction of higher landing fees it would have been completely useless to operate these planes at larger hubs.

The only use I see for this type of planes is bush flying, though in AS bush flying isn’t that profitable. A long time ago I had an airline operating about 100 Saabs around Europe and it was barely making a couple of millions in profit per week. With just 3 A320NEOs flying in Europe I was making 4 million in profit per week. It took a fraction of the time and investment setting up A320s compared to the Saabs and I was making double the money.

I believe that with the right business model any route (even in the smallest markets) with decent connections can at least handle a LET410.

Most propably it does, but the LET is not better than the PC12 if you have to cross more than just a few kilometers. If you e.g. operate a small prop to connect one of the numerous airports in Australia to your hub a LET is not the plane you need as the distances are too long for it. Additionally the higher speed gives you a better rating, for direct passengers as well as connex pax which is the main purpose of these routes and then allows you higher prices with same ORS rating. So yes, the costs per seat re higher, but the cashflow is too. The major cost factor for the e.g. PC12 is the price. So leasing it will hardly allow you to be profitable. If you can afford to buy it that factor is gone.

Buying a plane only saves you money if you eventually have someone to sell it too (for market value) or operate it for many years. That is never really the case with PC12s as usually the used market is flooded with them. Leasing is by far the more flexible choice and if you cant break even with a leased plane then you probably shoulnt operate it. For me buying a plane is like building a terminal. Either you do it to be kind to someone and lease it cheaply or you do it as a long term investment when you are swimming in cash. For the money you buy a PC12 you could lease a 737.

I agree that buying aircraft is like building terminals. And that is exactly the point were we seem to disagree. I would by far recommend to operate jets wherever possible and until growth reaches a limit. Only then (!!!) operating these small props makes sense to me, as by then you reach a limit anyways, can increase SLF with additional connex pax and hardly know where to put money anyways. Only in that situation would I expand with such small aircraft, starting with them is definately useless. They are from my side to be considered as the last puzzle part to finish an airline. I always have the tendency to connect every domestic airport with my airline, not only to have that ticked off, but to allow passengers of my home country to travel. Of course these aircraft can also easily be used for strategical matters like blocking slots for competitors (the PC12 Cargo is predestined for it), but also for a more fairplay approach that is to make your network unique. I was surprised how many passengers sometimes travel from/to 1 bar airports. It is not rare that you can move 2000 weekly passengers and they lack the possibility to be flown to with a small jet (is the CS1 still small?).

I use PC-12 in the freight version in wide areas, for example in Alaska.

Ohhh I see, if that is your style then good for you. It’s a very nice and realistic business model, especially for the US. Personally, I have always aimed for growth, both financial and physical. When I saturated a hub I would either move on to the next hub or extend my long haul which in turn would mean even more domestic and regional demand until I eventually ran out of slots. I agree about 1 and 2 bar airports being goldmines and I even used to run 10 daily A321s to a 2 bar airport. Sadly the runways are usually too short, thereby limiting the ability to fly there. When playing in Indonesia I used to “franchise” the regional flying by giving a new player cheaply leased CS3s and traffic rights to operate them as feeder at secondary hubs and he did great flying CS3s between small airports. We should probably continue the discussion in PM if you wish.

100 A380s on domestic routes in Indonisia?!?! That must be one massive market! I’m assuming you had a massive international network of connections which could support such volume?

Agreed. But you wouldn’t want to operate an LET to a major airport. Those are amazing for big surface countries with many medium markets. Take for instance Canada: you wouldn’t operate it to/from Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver or Calgary, but building a solid network out of Ottawa, Quebec City, Edmonton, Victoria using smaller aircraft could be a great way to support “larger” aircraft from such hub.

At the end of the day, smaller aircraft are used quite often in the real world but often operate as charter companies and/or small passenger companies to remote and/or small communities. I am not sure AS is capable of supporting such a strategy overall.