A deal by European flag carrier KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to acquire 15 Embraer E175s and two larger E190 jets at the end of the first quarter of this year was driven by the significant improvements in the fuel efficiency of the Brazilian-built airliners.
Speaking at the Routes Silk Road Strategy Summit in Tbilisi, Georgia, Raul Villaron, Marketing Director EMEA and Central Asia, Embraer confirmed that initiatives to make the 88-seat airliner, part of the increasing popular E-Jet aircraft family, more efficient for airline operations had played an important role in KLM’s decision to select the type to replace its 19-strong Fokker 70 fleet.
“Through our development work, we have managed to reduce the fuel burn on the E175 by around 6.4 per cent versus the original E170 which entered the market just over ten years ago. This was important for KLM in its deal to grow its E-Jet fleet and add the E175 to its product family,” he said.
KLM will start to receive the new aircraft in March 2016 with deliveries due to be completed by June 2018. Its supplementary two E190s, a type it already operates, will arrive in December this year. The airline has also taken out an option to order an additional seventeen E-Jets in the future, believed to be part of a fleet renewal that could also support the regional activities of its sister carrier Air France and fleet renewal at its Hop! division.
Dubbed the E175+, the variant KLM ordered has a different winglet to the baseline aircraft to increase fuel efficiency. Embraer revealed in March 2014 when the first aircraft was rolled out that the winglets and other streamlining for the mid-generation upgrade would help to keep the aircraft competitive until the next-generation ‘E2’ models enter service in 2018 and which will reduce fuel burn by 24 per cent versus the original aircraft.
According to Villaron, Embraer has already secured seven full years of production for the aircraft based on current firm and tentative commitments from airlines (640 commitments, including 267 firm orders), even before the type has first emerged for flight trials. After the entry into service of the E190-E2 in the first half of 2018, the larger E195-E2 will follow in 2019 and smaller E175-E2 in 2020.
The arrival of the new Embraers will coincide with phasing out of the 19 Fokker 70s from service and during 2018 the fleet of KLM’s regional operation, KLM Cityhopper will consist of just Embraer E-Jets: 30 E190s and 15 E175+ aircraft. There will also be a slight increase in fleet capacity as the E175s will be configured with 88-seats against the smaller 8-seat Fokker 70s they will replace.
Villaron had earlier presented an interesting analogy between purchasing new aircraft and popular soft drink, Coca Cola, during his Routes Silk Road Strategy Summit presentation. He noted that the purchase of a 330ml can or a 2l bottle of the drink depends on a number of parameters that are similar to airlines choosing to purchase mainline short-haul jets or smaller aircraft such as the E-Jet family. “Demand has different tastes,” he said.
As part of the manufacturer’s popular ‘rightsizing’ capacity marketing claim Villaron said that around 65 per cent of flights in Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia are operating with less than 130 passengers on each flight. “If you use bigger aircraft in these markets, as airline you are probably losing money,” he said. “An empty seat is a nightmare for an airline. You lower fares and think you are stimulating the market, but you are lowering your yield.”