Yikes! Good luck with those B99 (I hope you're based in Hawaii with lots of short haul demand). There is nothing wrong with leasing aircraft, but you need to utilize it enough to pay for the lease, which usually means flying 24 hours from an airport without curfew. There is also nothing wrong with debt--you don't necessarily want to be debt free. Almost all companies carry a debt load of some sort to finance expansion.
You also asked what the objective of the game is. It is a sandbox game, which means the objective is whatever you want to make it. If it is success flying only regional jets, Russian aircraft, or prop aircraft, so be it. You also mentioned not irritating competitors too much. Every airline has so many competitors that one guy with a small fleet is pretty much going to go unnoticed. Plus, the whole point of the game is to engage and compete with other airlines, not avoid them
That is the problem, I am based at a curfewed airport. But I found my niches...
I agree about the debt, when, for example, the interest-rates are low it may be an attractive way of financing.
One little misunderstanding: I did not ASK about the objective of the game. I made my own statement.
It is also right to engage in competition, but only, when you are fit to do so.
Competition means also, that a big one does not want to be eaten up from the bottom. so, at some point, when the smaller counterpart becomes too much of a nuisance, he will give him the kick in the form of price-competition or flooding the route with offers that the small one cannot compete against.
If the big one doesnīt do this, he will soon find, that he isnīt anymore the big one.
So I avoid the competition as long as possible, until I feel fit to face it.
I canīt agree to biz flyerīs statement, that leasing aircraft should be avoided and his way of owning planes from the beginning by buying micro-aircrafts. These are definitely a "no-go" for a start-up airline, because they produce tremendous overhead costs they hardly ever will fly in.
Of course every start-up needs leased aircraft. The warning of too much growth right after start is correct. Every new connection needs time to evolve itīs RI, so aircraft will fill up only slowly.Expect initial losses. This money is to be kept back and not tied to buying or leasing aircraft. Donīt forget monthly leases will kick in after 5 months!
This game leaves enough space for everybodyīs preferred way of business, so there is no general goal except maybe "survival".
There are good FAQīs by experienced players which wil help you to find your way through difficult first year.
Maybe, this was a bit too strong of a statement, I made. Of course leasing may always be an option and it neednīt always be the worst.
But my experience was, that due to the curfew-related under-utilization the leasing-rates were spoiling my efforts to come into the earning-zone.
When I lease a plane and I cannot use it for a certen period, then the lease is going to hit me anyhow.
My own plane will just stand around and cost me lost revenue, but nothing else (except for maintenance, if I am operating a proper airline).
Another point is, that I tried to expand and in the course of the expansion accepted too high leasing-rates.
That was my killer at least in one instance.
Regarding the small aircraft:
I was asking myself, "what are my possibilities at my start-up point?"
In order to start up in the way, that I would like to, I would need more investors (like in real life) and banks, who are also more prepared to gamble (donīt tell me now about the bank crisis...)
As this was not available, I took the money and bought 3 aircraft, which I was able to put in the makret in such a way, that they earn money.
So I have just the loan-payments and the lease cost does not burden me.
I believe, that in fact, I am replaying the real start of many airlines, where the entrepreneurs also only had limited amounts of money available and had to start small, no matter what.