Norwegian regional airline Wideroe anticipates converting the purchase rights it holds for 12 Embraer E2 series jets, and initial work to analyze the time frame and variant could start after the summer. “The focus right now is getting the first three E190-E2s [we have on firm order] in service and to a stable operation. This is a huge jump for us,” Wideroe CEO Stein Nilsen told AIN onboard the airline’s first E190-E2 ferry flight from São Jose dos Campos to Bergen. Wideroe serves as the launch operator of the type and expects to receive the second aircraft in May and the third in June.
Wideroe’s options offer the flexibility to convert them to firm orders for any variant and the final order will most likely involve a mix of E190-E2s and the smaller E175-E2s, Nilsen noted. Embraer plans to deliver the first E175-E2 in 2021. Nilsen called the variant’s passenger capacity of 80 to 90 “very interesting” for Wideroe and a good fit in the airline’s “rightsizing” strategy. The airline plans to deploy the E190-E2s on the thicker and longer routes.
“They’re not replacement aircraft,” deputy COO and E2 project team leader Andreas Kollbye Aks told AIN. One Bombardier Q400 went back to its lessor but schedules call for no other aircraft to leave the fleet, which comprises 20 Dash 8-100s, three Dash 8-200s, seven Dash 8-300s, and 11 Q400s.
Environmental considerations and taxes stood as key reasons for acquiring the E2s, Nilsen said. Taxes, including an environmental tax introduced by the Norwegian government in 2016, have increased by 70 percent per passenger over the past five years for Wideroe, due in part to the relatively low-seat-capacity turboprops it flies on short hops. “This prompted the need for bigger capacity aircraft” so the costs are spread over a larger number of passengers, he explained.
Wideroe’s MRO division operates as an Embraer E2 authorized service center, employing 12 E2 certified technicians. The company hopes to conduct third party maintenance as airlines introduce the new generation E-jets. It will train and license up to 36 pilots for E2 operations by the time all three E190-E2s enter commercial service, Aks said.
The first E190-E2 will fly its first revenue passengers from Bergen to Tromso on April 24 and two days later a second domestic route, between Bergen and Bodo. Use of the Embraer reduces flight time by 20 and 15 minutes, respectively, on corresponding flights with Q400s, according to the airline. Wideroe expects the three E2s to drive a systemwide capacity increase of 5 percent to 6 percent in winter 2018-2019 compared with the same period a year earlier.
From August, the airline plans to use the jets to open longer international routes, including a Bergen to Hamburg and Munich in Germany.
The aircraft’s longer stage length and passenger capacity compared to its Bombardier turboprop fleet also open up opportunities to do more charter work and wet-lease, Nilsen said. A first contract for a tour operator kicks off in June, with Wideroe operating a Bergen-Antalya, Turkey service on their behalf. Separately, a wet-lease agreement with Finnair for a daily service connecting Bergen with Helsinki and a weekly between Trondheim and Helsinki will start on May 15.