The real issue here, if there is one, is the gap between the ATR and the A320 on the domestic market, there is no larger turboprop on the market and our geographical footprint means most ATR flights are around 60mins or less, while there's a number of regional jets in the market now over these sector lengths they're aren't as economical as a turbo-prop to run and maintain.
I think we're talking about two distinct markets: (a) Tasman/Pacific thin routes and (b) long domestic ATR and thin A320 routes.
Re (a) I could see a small fleet of A220s allowing daily operation on routes that wouldn't otherwise warrant it and permit new routes to be established. Hard to be sure from published consumption per aircraft and consumption per seat data, but over that sort of range the aircraft-mile costs appear to be approx equivalent to the A319 NEO (and presumably therefore less than the A320 NEO). The pax-mile costs also appear to be broadly similar, though to some extent it's hard to make "real" comparisons when there are so many variables which could be called into play. It's not a slam-dunk for either aircraft, but if new routes or frequency over volume is preferred, the A220 would prob come out as having the edge.
Re (b) there's the issue of how many flights on (say) AKL-NSN or HLZ-CHC is enough before a larger capacity aircraft (with shorter transit time) becomes preferable to more frequency. I'd say that AKL-NSN is probably pretty much at that point now - little passenger advantage in adding more services. On some data, the seat-mile costs for the AT7 and the A220 is more or less equivalent, and the advantages for pax are obvious. It was interesting, for example, to see NZ's response to JQ's commencement on the WLG-DUD route - all of a sudden the A320s were there in force, while as soon as JQ withdrew the AT7s were back on many of the offpeak flights. To me that suggests that cheaper fares doesn't always trump jet speed and comfort for the public, especially in a competitive environment. It could be argued that if NZ was serious about seeing off the JQ challenge on routes like AKL-NSN it could take the fight to them by employing jets on that route.
I'd also argue that NZ could totally cement its position on AKL-DUD with a smaller aircraft that could operate (say) 3-6 times a day rather than the present 2-4 times a day. That might make JQ's offering on that route pretty difficult.
As I said earlier though - this is speculation and blue-sky thinking rather than a serious proposal. However, I don't think it can or should be dismissed outright without far more rigorous analysis - which would include analysis of the likely future competitive environment as well as the current situation.
Also, what' the future with the electric or hybrid turbo-props and how will this compare to regional jets over the coming 20 years? Will the regions get cheaper fares and more flights?
I think that NZ's partnership with ATR over electric turboprops is intriguing. We're unlikely to see any fruit from it for many years, but I'm really pleased that NZ is taking the lead on this, as we all know that air travel will increasingly come under the gun for its negative impact on the environment. As one of the most trusted corporates on both sides of the Tasman, NZ needs to be seen to be progressive and sensitive to needs beyond the immediate bottom line.
And should they go for photovoltaics on the hull as a partial mechanism for charging the batteries, an all-black aircraft covered in photovoltaic cells would look pretty much like any other all-black NZ aircraft! Not that I seriously expect that in-flight charging like this will be a part of the solution, but hey, you never know!
As for the economics of electric aircraft, I assume there would be a weight penalty but very significant operational cost savings compared with current turboprops and regional jets.Time will tell.
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