DHL expands local fleet and assesses turboprops

DHL is in the midst of overhauling its Middle East fleet and it is now set to purchase four turboprops to replace its aging Metroliners.

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By  Neil Denslow Published  December 30, 2003

DHL is in the midst of overhauling its Middle East fleet. The 3PL has doubled its number of aircraft to 14 over the last 18 months and it is now set to purchase four turboprops to replace its aging Metroliners. Boeing 727Fs are also being gradually introduced into the region. Currently, DHL operates a mixed fleet of aircraft out of its hub in Bahrain, made up of four Metroliners, two Convair 850s, an A300-600, three AN-12s, two Airbus 300 B4s and two 727s. This is up from just seven aircraft in March 2002 and reflects DHL’s growth in the region. “This increased fleet now serves destinations in Afghan-istan, Pakistan and Iraq and it has seen capacity grow over the 18 months from three million kilos to nine million kilos a month,” says Paul Bishop, Middle East airlines director, DHL. The fleet is set for further change with the Metroliners being replaced by either Embraer 120 FCs or SAAB 340Bs. The Metroliners, which serve most of the major cities in the region, are being retired to avoid the expense of installing the new systems needed to meet forthcoming regulations. “We needed to invest a lot of money putting TCAS and enhanced GPWS in the Metros, so that was one of the reasons for looking at the replacement aircraft,” says Bishop. The replacements for the Metros are scheduled to enter service over the summer, and DHL plans to announce whether it will buy Embraers or SAABs before the end of the month. A range of factors will influence the company’s decision. “For us, reliability is extremely important. We operate to a very high dispatch rate, so [in terms of] technical dispatch reliability we are looking for more than 99%,” notes Bishop. “Regionally, we also look at performance in hot and high conditions. We look at block times and we look at ease of loading and unloading… and the availability of spare parts. These are all the factors we put together, and we have got two very good aircraft [to consider],” he adds. The Convairs in the DHL Middle East fleet are also likely to be phased out over the next few years, as the company introduces 727s into the area from its European fleet. This will be a cost-effective move for DHL, while also allowing it to introduce extra capacity on its Convair routes. “It could be that for us, regionally, the replacement for the Convair is the 727 rather than an ATR or a 7 to 8 tonnes capacity aircraft,” says Bishop. DHL is also looking to introduce some additional routes on its air network in order to boost its service levels. In particular, it is considering launching routes into the Levant from Bahrain, and also some direct point-to-point services. “Under consideration are a jet service linking Bahrain with Riyadh and Jeddah, an air link between the Levant and the Gulf, and a new Bahrain-Doha-Muscat-Doha-Bahrain service, which would greatly improve transit times and allow for later take offs and earlier deliveries,” says Bishop.

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