ATR will announce the launch customer for a high-density, 78-seat ATR 72-600 here Tuesday. The manufacturer is hoping to certify the new model by year-end.

However, the 78-seat version – up from the present 74 seats - does not hit the 80-seat target originally mooted by ATR CEO Patrick de Castelbajac.

“Last year we said the target would be 80. It remains 80, but we are not completely at the target yet. We will certify the 78-seat version soon; it could go live by the end of this year,” he said during a media briefing at the show. “We can go up to 78 passengers, with a 28-in. pitch. We have already found some attraction in the market and we are going to announce a deal with a launch customer tomorrow.”

The 78-seat layout, which has been achieved by moving the galley, will enter service in 2016 and will also be available as a retrofit option. Low-cost carriers that operate sectors of under an hour’s duration are expected to be the prime customers, owing to the aircraft’s lower unit costs. De Castelbajac hinted that South East Asia could be a prime market.

Meanwhile, ATR’s plans to develop a 90-seat large turboprop (LTP) remain on ice. “Regrettably, there is no change on the Airbus side. They still think the timing is not right,” he said.