First delivery of the Embraer E195-E2 on Thursday not only marked the start of what the Brazilian manufacturer hopes will be a continued run of success in the segment of the small narrowbody market up to 150 seats, but it heralded news of a plan by JetBlue founder and Azul chairman David Neeleman to launch yet another new airline, using E195s in the U.S.
The largest airplane ever built by Embraer, the E195-E2 goes to Brazil’s Azul at a time AerCap CEO Angus Kelly called a unique moment in the company’s economic and industrial history and as the country’s largest domestic carrier embarks on the next phase of its rapid development. Appearing with Kelly at Embraer’s manufacturing campus in Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, Neeleman thanked the leasing company executive “for [his] support and all [his] money.” AerCap will lease roughly half of Azul’s E195-E2s, including part of the order for 51 so far publicized.
Now flying four aircraft types, including ATRs, Airbus A320s and A330s, and E190s/E195s, Azul expects the biggest E2s to operate for seat-mile costs as low as its “larger airplanes,” helping it lower fares and stimulate demand to still more untapped markets, said Neeleman. Plans call for the E2s to eventually replace all the E1s, as many as 30 of which Neeleman said he planned to start sending to the U.S. to launch a new low-fare airline next year. The new carrier would operate on a certificate separate from the AOC that Neeleman has secured for an Airbus A220 operation scheduled to launch in 2021 in the U.S., loosely known as Moxy.
For Azul, Neeleman revealed he tried to convince Embraer to introduce the E195-E2 before the smaller E190-E2. That didn’t happen, of course, but Neeleman expects the bigger airplane to prove worth the wait. “This airplane is going to allow us to have the same seat-mile costs as our larger airplanes, which means we can fly to more destinations, we can fly with more frequency, and we can offer even lower fares,” he said. “There’s a lot of conversation in Brazil about [high air fares]. Unfortunately, the costs of doing business in Brazil are high. There are a lot of government regulations; there are a lot of things that could easily be removed that could make our jobs easier in lowering fares. But this airplane will allow us to lower airfares on certain markets and stimulate demand.”
Azul plans to fly the first of 51 E195-E2s from its main hub in Campinas to Brasilia by the end of October. An aggressive service entry plan will see a total of six airplanes arrive at Campinas by December. Embraer plans to deliver 18 E195-E2s by the end of the year.
“It’s a historic moment to be picking up the largest aircraft ever manufactured in Brazil,” said Azul CEO John Rodgerson. “For many years the skies of Brazil had aircraft from Brazil fly through it but not over it. And now finally, because of Azul, we’re flying these aircraft all throughout Brazil. We fly to more than 100 cities and this month we now fly 900 flights a day in Brazil. Our next closest competitor has 720 flights a day.”
Rodgerson said Azul plans to double in size over the next five years, largely using the Embraer aircraft. This year alone it expects to add 2,000 employees to its 13,000-strong workforce and invest $1.5 billion in new airplanes.