Airline to decide later this year on changes to its fleet Planemaker confident in future U.S. buyers for E190, E195 E2 Embraer SA ’s E190 aircraft is flown by airlines around the world, but has struggled to find much of a home in North America.
Now the largest U.S. operator of the plane may walk away, casting doubts on whether the next version of the jet can succeed in the market. JetBlue Airways Corp. plans to decide by the end of this year whether to join American Airlines Group Inc. and Air Canada in dropping the plane, ending an original plan for one hundred E190s in the New York-based carrier’s fleet. It would leave Aeromexico Connect as the only airline in North America flying Embraer’s second best-selling commercial jet, which can carry 96 to 114 passengers. JetBlue Embraer E190, center, and Airbus A320, rear, taxi at JFK airport.
The E190’s fall from favor in the U.S., the world’s largest air travel market, illustrates the struggle for aircraft designed for point-to-point, high-frequency routes, operating between smaller planes that ferry passengers to airport hubs and big jets that are flown greater distances by large carriers. Operators have to charge higher fares for the convenience of multiple daily flights between the same cities to cover the increased costs of flying a plane with fewer seats. “There are arguments for the 100-seater, but it’s far from guaranteed,” said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst at Teal Group. “It’s always depended upon the confidence that airlines could make it work from a pricing standpoint.
This JetBlue decision is kind of a referendum or judgment on that.” JetBlue’s fleet review comes as Embraer prepares for the first commercial flight next year of the E190 E2, a new version with an engine the Brazilian planemaker says will burn less fuel and have lower maintenance costs than the current jet. The Sao Jose dos Campos-based company also is marketing the E2 version of its larger E195 small jet. “Right now its important to have a stake in the North American market,” said Nick Heymann, a William Blair analyst. The E190 “is supposed to be a natural walkup to the E2. North America is a pretty important market for both regional and small narrow-body airplanes.” Boeing, Airbus At least 38 airlines outside of North America fly 40 or more E190s. The jet has competed against 120- to 150-seat planes from Boeing Co. and Airbus SE that were already in use when it was introduced, John Slattery, head of the Brazilian planemaker’s commercial aviation unit, said in an interview. JetBlue’s version carries 100 passengers. The shaky position of the E190 doesn’t mean that Embraer is lacking fans in the U.S. The planemaker’s 76-seat E175 aircraft is flown by most U.S. regional carriers. But union contracts at American, United and Delta airlines require that planes with more than 76 seats be flown as part of their main jet operations, where higher-paid pilots raise the operating costs of the E190. Still, Slattery […]