Air Dolomiti, a Lufthansa Group subsidiary, is gearing up for further growth as the Italy-based carrier prepares to expand its fleet from 12 to 17 regional aircraft over the next two years and possibly to 26 by 2024.

President and CEO Jörg Eberhart discussed his plans for the airline with ATW Jan. 9 during an Air Dolomiti special flight.

The carrier operates a fleet of 12 Embraer E195s and is set to receive five more from Lufthansa CityLine, Lufthansa’s Germany-based regional carrier.

“We will add two to three aircraft per year, which is of course ambitious also in terms recruiting personnel,” Eberhart said. “Per aircraft you need 12 pilots. For the five aircraft an additional 30 to 35 technicians are needed, as well 90 flight attendants and up to 20 people in administration.”

The larger fleet will allow the airline to increase frequencies on existing routes and operate flights within the Lufthansa network where aircraft the size of the E195 are needed, he said.

Additional aircraft from CityLine could join Air Dolomiti’s fleet in the future.

“We also have the possibility to get nine additional Embraer 190s, but this is not confirmed by now,” Eberhart said. “These aircraft could join our fleet by 2024. A decision if we go ahead with these nine aircraft could be made possibly this year.”

Further out, Eberhart sees new-generation aircraft joining Air Dolomiti’s fleet.

“A future fleet for Air Dolomiti will most likely see larger aircraft in the 150-seat segment, like the Embraer E2 or Airbus A220,” he said.

The airline flies mainly feeder routes into the Munich and Frankfurt hubs from various Italian destinations, most of which are in the north of the country.

“Thirty percent of our passengers are traveling point-to-point; 70% changing aircraft at these hubs,” he said. “Air Dolomiti is well-integrated in the Lufthansa concept. Our cost structure is well below Lufthansa mainline.”

More than 90% of Air Dolomiti flights begin or end at a Lufthansa hub.

In 2017, the carrier transported 2 million passengers. In 2018, the number increased by 300,000 to 2.3 million. “I think an increase to 2.5 million passengers could be possible in 2019,” Eberhart said.

Air Dolomiti plans to establish technical bases at several Italian airports.

“In 2020, we’d like to have technicians based in Turin and Florence,” Eberhart said, and possibly Bologna and Venice airports, where maintenance services would be also available for other Lufthansa airlines.

Kurt Hofmann, hofmann.aviation@netway.at