Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer is quietly optimistic about its future sales prospects, despite the current economic downturn. Speaking at a CEO round table event in Palma de Mallorca on October 26, Embraer’s Vice President Europe – Commercial Aviation, Simon Newitt, reported that the company has been buoyed by recent orders from Bulgaria Air and Dniproavia. “Although repeat business remains a significant part of our sales strategy, we are also targeting key markets including Africa, the Middle East and the CIS,” he said.
The Embraer E-Jet family (including the E170, E175, E190 and E195) has already secured over 1,000 firm orders, and Newitt explained how it was finding its niche by ‘right-sizing’ key routes. Many operators are using the type to operate services that cannot always be guaranteed to fill the larger Airbus A320 and Boeing 737, and high reliability (99.3% serviceability to date) has helped drive down costs. The smaller size also makes the E-Jet family suitable for opening new routes, where the reduced seating and lower operating cost significantly reduce the potential associated risk. Data provided by E190 customer Air Canada suggests that the type is 20% cheaper to operate per trip than the A319.
Embraer were particularly keen to promote the green credentials of the E-Jet, highlighting that they were designed to operate well within strict emissions legislations around the world – British Airways subsidiary CityFlyer has reportedly reduced CO, emissions by 130,000 tonnes per year across its 12-aircraft fleet since moving from the Avro RJ85/100 family.
In light of the recent resurgence in regional turboprop types, Newitt commented that it was, for the time being at least, a market Embraer would not enter. “The major factor will be the movement of fuel prices. The market is already well served so we will concentrate on narrow-body jets but may evaluate this again in the future.”
The E-Jet order book for Embraer currently sits at 1,018 aircraft with a delivery backlog of 248 airframes. The manufacturer is predicting a requirement for 6,795 aircraft in the 70 to 100-seat market between now and 2030.
Spanish airline Air Europa has revealed how it is using the E195 to maintain its market share amid increasing competition from European low-cost carriers (LCCs). Now in its 25th year of operation, the carrier operates a hybrid of both charter and scheduled flights, and flies its domestic and regional routes mainly in support of its long-haul services. Air Europa’s Director of Fleet Management, Mateo Sanchez, explained how the airline’s fleet size has remained relatively unchanged, but has effectively downsized, with the 100-seat E195 replacing the larger 737s. This reduction in capacity has allowed the carrier to ‘right-size’ its aircraft to certain routes, increasing the airline’s load factor but decreasing its operational costs.
With increasing competition from low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and Air Berlin, Sanchez reflected that Air Europa was being forced to employ a similar operating model. The current economic turbulence in the Eurozone and the likely introduction of austerity measures in 2012 mean that the airline is expecting passenger figures to fall below 8 million. However. Air Europa’s extensive domestic network, support from the SkyTeam alliance and the wider use of the smaller E195 – which reportedly delivers savings of €2,000 per flight hour against the 737-800 – are expected to help the carrier through a difficult period.
Mainline Carriers Adopting The Low-cost Model
Speaking at the round table event, Regional’s CEO, Jean-Yves Grosse, explained how the Embraer E-Jet family had made a significant improvement to the carrier’s feeder operations. As with many of the full-service airlines around Europe, the increased competition from low-cost carriers and a hike in fuel costs have significantly reduced margins. Grosse commented that Regional also faced serious competition from highspeed rail links, particularly on domestic routes, and while load factors had increased to 73%, the airline had been forced to keep the cost per seat low. “We employ the LCC model to reduce costs, but we will not become a low-cost operator,” he added.
A key move in this strategy is the establishment of a regional base at Bordeaux from May 2012. The carrier will employ E-Jets and is hoping to achieve a daily utilisation of 10 to 12 hours with turnaround times as low as 25 minutes. The model is similar to that of the LCCs and means that aircraft will see higher utilisation (3,500-4,000 hours per annum against the current 3,200) – while aircraft and crews will be based locally, reducing accommodation and ferry costs.
Grosse confirmed that the carrier’s immediate priority was fleet stabilisation, explaining that, by 2012, Regional will have reduced the size from 65 to 51 aircraft and will operate just two types (Embraer ERJs and E-Jets). Longer term, the airline intends to remove the smaller ERJs which, Grosse explained, were no longer commercially viable, and replace them with the larger E-Jet family.
The Jet Factor
Flybe, the UK’s largest domestic carrier, is expecting delivery of its first El 75 later this year and places great emphasis on the partnership it has established with the Brazilian manufacturer.
Andrew Strong, Managing Director of Flybe UK, outlined the airline’s successful business model: “Our main driver is repeat travel rather than the leisure sector. We offer high-frequency services and have no direct competition on our routes.” Significantly, 82% of Flybe’s routes are over water so, unlike carriers in mainland Europe, the airline does not come into conflict with rail.
Strong described the logic behind the recent E175 order for Flybe, a long-time turboprop operator: “Most of our fleet is leased and has an average age of four years – if our current growth rate of 6% per annum continues, we will have a requirement for 130 aircraft by 2020. The E175 offers commonality with the E195 and its 88-seat capacity fits neatly into our existing fleet. We wanted to maintain the cost per seat we currently achieve with the Bombardier DHC 8-Q400 but, even with the best deal, the E175 averages