Under the leadership of Lee R. Thompson, RA is established at Livingstone in 1992 to offer scheduled and charter domestic passenger and cargo services. Revenue flights commence employing a Douglas DC-3 and two Convair CV-580s. Destinations visited include Bulawayo, Kariba, Phalaborwa, Pietersburg, and Umtata.
Unable to achieve economic viability, the company shuts its doors in 1993.
REGIONAL AIRLINES, S. A.: France (1992-2001). On January 1, 1992, the French regionals Air Exel France, S. A., Air Vendee, S. A., and Airlec, S. A. are merged at Nantes to create this larger carrier. Air Vendee, S. A. holds 79% control with Airlec 21%. Jean-Paul Dubreuil, president of Air Vendee, S. A., becomes president and general manager of the new entrant. The inaugural fleet comprises 1 British Aerospace BAe Jetstream 31s, 5 Fairchild Metro IIIs, 3 Metro IIs, and 5 SAAB 340Bs. Orders are placed for 5 (later s6) more BAe Jetstream 31s.
The original inherited route network includes markets at Le Havre, Nante, Rouen, Brussels, Bordeaux, Nantes, Barcelona, London (LGW), Lyon, Nantes, Clermont, Ferrand, Geneva, and Amsterdam. During the year, services are started to Rennes, Caen, Frankfurt, Milan, Malpensa, Toulouse, Dijon, Angouleme, Limoges, and Paris (ORY).
Atotal of 120,000 passengers are flown and revenues are FFr 111.13 million. Expenses total FFr 117.84 million and the operating loss is FFr 6.7 million.
Airline employment in 1993 is 150. Delivery of the additional Jetstream 31s begins in March and the new turboprops are placed into service on a new route from Nantes to Geneva via Clermont Ferrand. Codesharing begins with Iberia Spanish Airlines (2) (Lineas Aereas de Espana, S. A.) during the spring when Regional begins flying to Madrid nonstop from Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseilles, Nantes, Nice, and Rennes. Other flights are to Barcelona from Bordeaux, Lyon, Nantes, Pau, Rennes, and Toulouse, to the Portuguese city of Porto nonstop from Bordeaux, and one stop via Madrid.
A leased Avions de Transport Regional ATR42-320 begins flying over the company’s longest route, Lyon-Madrid, and the last of the new BAe Jetstream 31s arrives on June 30.
While assisting in the repatriation of the survivors of a motorbus accident, a Metro III with 3 crew and 16 passengers is forced to abort its takeoff from Troyes Airport for England’s Biggin Hill Airport on September 19; although the aircraft is damaged, there are no fatalities.
Passenger boardings accelerate 25% to 145,000 and there is a net profit of $600,000.
Several new routes are opened in 1994 as the company receives three more SAAB 340Bs and an eighth Jetstream 31, plus two more leased ATRs. As Air France, TAT European Airlines, S. A., Air Littoral, S. A., and Brit Air, S. A. shed thinner scheduled routes, these are continuously picked up by RA. The new aircraft, as with those earlier owned, also perform charter flights.
Daily roundtrip Jetstream 31 service is inaugurated on April 1 from Nantes and Le Havre via Bordeaux to Manchester, England.
Also in April, the carrier joins with the Spanish air taxi Gestair, S. A. (51% majority shareholder) to establish a Spanish subsidiary RLA (Regional Lineas Aereas, S. A.). Although $205,000 capitalization is provided, the new subsidiary is prevented from launching service by the faster acquisition by Air Nostrum, S. A. of a coveted route from Vitoria to Bilbao. The firm will remain a paper enterprise for some time. Instead, a code-sharing agreement is reached with Iberia Spanish Airlines (2) (Lineas Aereas de Espana, S. A.) for French-Spanish services.
On December 1, a $70-million order is placed for three SAAB 2000s and three Embraer EMB-145s. By year’s end, a total of 110 flights per day are offered to 30 cities in 8 nations. Enplanements reach 235,000, but the net gain drops to $128,000.
The workforce is increased by 25.5% to 340 in 1995. During the first quarter, twice-daily roundtrips are inaugurated from Toulouse to Madrid. When Air France abandons its Bordeaux-to-Geneva route in March, the carrier takes it over; it is operated with French aircraft under a block-space, code-sharing agreement with Crossair, Ltd. The undertraveled Manchester-Lille and Nantes-Manchester services are withdrawn.
The first SAAB 2000 is delivered in May and is employed to launch a new dual-designator services with Iberia Spanish Airlines (2) (Lineas Aereas de Espansa, S. A.) from Lyon to Madrid and Barcelona on June 1.
On July 6, one of the company’s new SAAB 2000s with 35 passengers flies the 520-nm. route from Lyon to Madrid in a record 1 hr. 15 min. The second SAAB 2000 arrives in August and begins flying from Nice and Marseilles to Barcelona. The three ATRs are withdrawn.
When the Air France-Air Inter Express program is established during the year, RA becomes a code-sharing partner, agreeing in exchange for subsidy to repaint some of its aircraft and to fly medium - and low-density domestic or regional routes for the Air France Groupe.
Passenger boardings jump 43.2% to 335,000.
Airline employment grows another 22.1% in 1996 to 415 and the leased fleet includes 9 J-31s, 8 SAAB 340Bs, 2 SAAB 2000s, and 1 ATR42-320 chartered from TAT European Airlines, S. A.
A mini-hub is established at Le Havre. SAABs and J-31s from Nantes and Rouen pass through it en route to Brussels and Amsterdam.
During the spring, the Spanish line RLA (Regional Lineas Aereas, S. A.) is given a SAAB 340B and is able to inaugurate a single route from Porto to Toulouse via Madrid. Customer bookings through July are up 19% to 196,000.
On October 7, a memorandum of understanding is signed with Deutsche BA Luftfahrtgesselschaft, GmbH. for the sale of its turboprop international and domestic operations originating from Bremen, Stuttgart, and Friedrichshafen to the French company. Regional Airlines makes plans to establish a separate German subsidiary, Deutsche Regional Airlines, S. A., which is to be activated when the arrangement is consummated in November. Unhappily, German aviation authorities will balk at the creation of this subsidiary and the entire scheme is scrapped.
On October 17, the carrier is introduced on the secondary market of the Paris Stock Exchange and is thus the first French regional airline to offer a public share flotation. An 11% stake in the company valued at FFr 300 million is placed, bringing in FFr 56.16 million in new capitalization.
Enplanements total 280,476 and there is a $3.61-million net profit on operating income of $113 million.
The employee population is increased by 90 workers in 1997 and the first Embraer EMB-145 Amazon is delivered in February. It will be followed by five more plus nine SAAB 2000s; meanwhile, two J-31s and a SAAB 340B are withdrawn, while another SAAB 340B remains out with RLA (Regional Lineas Aereas, S. A.). Plans are made to retire additional SAAB 340Bs, all of the Jetstreams, and three SAAB 2000s over the next two years as five more EMB-145s are delivered.
During and beyond the first quarter the company enters into a number of marketing alliances: a code-share and block-seat arrangement with SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) on a route from Lyon to Copenhagen; a dual-designator pact with Swissair, A. G. from Toulouse to Zurich; a code-share with KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines, N. V.) from Marseilles to Amsterdam and from Clermont-Ferrand to Amsterdam; a block-seat arrangement with Air France from Lyon and Nice to Stuttgart; and a block-seat arrangement with Sabena Belgian World Airlines, S. A. from Nantes to Brussels.
Europe-wide deregulation occurs on April 1 and Regional begins to fly its new German network. In mid-April, a domestic code-sharing agreement is signed with Proteus Air System, S. A. and on April 30 the company begins dual-designator flights from Rouen and Clermont-Ferrand. Another is signed with Air Normandie, S. A.
During the summer, new services are inaugurated to Poitiers, Rouen, Strasbourg, and Toulon. On September 1, three newly leased EMB-120 Brasilias, formerly operated by Air Littoral, S. A., are employed to inaugurate a new service from Poitiers to Nice via Clermont-Ferrand.
On September 25, the company signs a feeder contract with Air Lib-erte, S. A. The two will share codes on seven domestic routes: Saint-Brieuc to Paris (ORY), Brest to Bordeaux, Lille to Bourdeaux, Marseilles to Lyon, Metz to Bourdeaux, and Toulouse to Lyon.
The German routes are significantly altered with the coming of the fall schedule. Service from Friedrichshafen to Dusseldorf is stopped, but is immediately assumed by competing Lufthansa CityLine, GmbH. Flights from Zurich to Bremen and from Geneva to Stuttgart are transferred to its Crossair, Ltd. partner and only the routes from Stuttgart to Lyon, Nice, Munster, and Venice are retained. On October 26, twice-daily SAAB 2000 service is launched from Toulouse to Dusseldorf via Clermont-Ferrand.
On November 17, the carrier begins thrice-daily SAAB 340B dualdesignator flights on behalf of KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines, N. V.) from Strasbourg-Amsterdam.
By year’s end, the carrier, which has enjoyed a 170% growth rate since its founding, is the only carrier in the world to operate both the SAAB 2000 (11) and EMB-145 (3). Plans are made to begin work in January on a new FFr 20-million terminal at its base, the first ever privately built by a French regional carrier, to inaugurate services to Montpellier in the spring and to broaden business-class services.
Customer bookings shoot up 55.9% to 636,000. Revenues increase 50% to $144.83 million. Still, the net gain slips to $3.56 million.
Service continues apace in 1998. On September 25, a $150-million order is placed with Embraer for five ERJ-135s and five more ERJ-145s, the first of which will be delivered in October 1999.
Enplanements for the year jump 25.8% to reach 800,000 and revenues of 168 million euros ($193 million) are generated.
The fleet at the beginning of 1999 includes 8 SAAB 2000s and 6 ERJ-145s. A code-sharing and marketing agreement is signed with Deutsche Lufthansa, A. G. on February 25. When it takes effect on March 28, Regional becomes the latest “Team Lufthansa” carrier.
Plans are also announced for the enhancement of the Paris (CDG) hub, with additional frequencies to German cities, as well as daily return flights to Frankfurt. Regional’s customers are able to participate in the German major’s Miles & More frequent flyer program and to take advantage of its ground handling network, quality assistance services, and connections to partners in the “Star Alliance.”
On April 26, Regional agrees to purchase a 34% stake in the commuter line Flandre Air, S. A. Both companies have complementary route networks and nearly identical fleets. Regional also works out a joint-venture agreement with the maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) provider LAB for the creation of an Embraer spare parts pool.
Also in April, a SAAB 2000 is given a colorful livery designed to draw attention to L 'Alsace, Terre d'Election (Alsace, Land of Choice).
Passenger boardings accelerate 17.1% to 937,000. Revenues of $166.46 million are generated.
Airline employment at the beginning of 2000 stands at 684, a 1.6% increase over the previous 12 months.
It is announced on January 20 that 70% majority shareholding in the carrier will be taken by Air France.
An ATR42-520, previously operated by SATA (Societe Antillaise de Transportes Aeriens, S. A.-Air Guadeloupe) is received in an all-white color scheme on April 3.
An ATR42-320 is leased by Danish Air Transport, A. S. from Cim-ber Air, A. S. on July 1 and employed to operate replacement flights to Geneva on behalf of Regional.
“Air France Express” SAAB 2000 return service begins on September 11 from Bordeaux to London (LCY) via Clermont-Ferrand. Flights operate twice daily during the week and daily on weekends. An ERJ-145 is rolled out on October 2 wearing Air France colors with “Air France by Regional Airlines” titles.
Dual-designator service with KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines, N. V.) ends on October 29.
At the end of November, it is announced that Air France will merge Flandre Air, S. A., Proteus Air System, S. A., and Regional Airlines by mid-2001 into a unified large regional airline. The as-yet-unnamed carrier will operate 80 aircraft to approximately 400 domestic and European destinations and may earn as much as $325 million in annual revenues.
On March 19, 2001, Aviation Week and Space Technology will reveal that the name of the new entity, into which all three will be combined on April 1, is Region, S. A.