Embraer and the African Market: A Match Made in Heaven?
Ahead of the AviaDev coming up in Kigali Rwanda in October, 2017, Jon Howell (JH) of AviaDev spoke with Reinaldo Krugner (RK), VP Sales and Marketing Africa, Latin America and Portugal from Embraer about the manufacturer's plans for development on the continent. Embraer will be exhibiting at the forthcoming AviaDev, and look forward to meeting you there.
JH: There are very many Embraer aircraft in operation across the African continent currently. Can you provide an idea of just how many and why the African market has embraced your aircraft so warmly?
RK: Indeed, the number of Embraer aircraft on the African continent has grown significantly; currently, there are 150 Embraer aircraft operated by 43 airlines in 22 African countries – 10 years ago there were just 50 aircraft. Our commitment to Africa has always been based on a strong belief in the market’s characteristics and operation profile - our aircraft fit perfectly.
In 2016, eight out of 10 intra-Africa flights departed with fewer than 120 passengers on board, giving a poor average load factor of 69%. Embraer aircraft bring efficiencies by rightsizing large narrow-bodies, fitting thin routes with low frequencies. Our product portfolio can serve very thin markets with the ERJ family, from 30 to 50 seats, up to the mid density ones with E-Jets and E2s, and all the way up to just under 150 seats.
A great example of rightsizing is Fastjet, which has recently replaced its A319s with E190s, allowing the airline to improve efficiency, add frequencies and open new markets.
Other great examples are Kenya Airways, EgyptAir and Royal Air Maroc, which are using E-Jets to reinforce their hubs with multiple frequencies that complement their large narrowbodies. Increased competition on long-haul routes coming from the Gulf has pushed African carriers to become more efficient and to differentiate themselves by serving smaller markets into their hubs, offering unique O&Ds, consequently preserving yields and increasing profitability.
Lastly, our commitment to customer support has been a key element for the continued growth of the Embraer fleet in the region. Our Services & Support head office for Africa & Middle East is located in Johannesburg and a full team of specialists is based there. In addition, an important stock of spare parts is also available to support both the E-Jets and ERJs in the region.
JH: Airlink is your most recent customer in Africa taking the E190. Do you think the African market will demand the larger variants or do you think your smaller ERJ variants will continue to be the staple of your business on the continent?
RK: Currently, African airlines operate 70 ERJs, 51 E-Jets and 29 turboprops. Just 10 years ago the majority of the Embraer fleet in Africa was made of turboprops, 40 of them versus only 10 jets. As airlines evolved they moved to the ERJs and the natural evolution is for them to grow into the E-Jets and E2s.
Airlink is a great example, they used to be a major turboprop operator, then they started introducing jets, becoming the biggest ERJ operator in Africa, now the following phase is the introduction of the 13 E-Jets they have acquired, which will allow them to fly into completely new territories.
We currently see a potential of 210 new aircraft in our segment of under 150 seats in Africa over the next 20 years and we will continue to focus on customer satisfaction to make sure our ERJ customers move into the E-Jets and the E-Jets customers move into the E2s as their businesses develop.
JH: In terms of exciting developments, the E2-jets are now entering service. Have you seen strong interest in these from the African market?
RK: The E2 program has been very successful so far, with all targets achieved since the launch of the program and an impressive progression of the flight test campaign. Five prototypes are flying at the moment with 1,260+ flight hours and 35,000+ ground test hours achieved. The program is ahead of schedule, under budget and exceeding performance expectations.
Launch customers for the E2s are Wideroe for the E190-E2 and Azul for the E195-E2.
In fact, Wideroe is a good example for Africa, as they are moving from an all-turboprop operation into jets, benefiting from the greater passenger comfort, longer range, and unmatched economics.
The case of Azul is interesting, as they move from current E-Jets into the E2s to continue their expansion in Brazil with enhanced economics and performance, a natural development we expect to happen in Africa with current E-Jets operators.