Regional airliner manufacturers are seeing a major adjustment in African airline markets as airlines “right-size” their fleets, adopting more economical, regional types (especially regional jets). This was made clear at the twenty-seventh African Aviation Summit (Air Finance Africa) on Thursday by representatives of both the major regional jet original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs), Canada’s Bombardier and Brazil’s Embraer.
Bombardier senior Vice President, Middle East and Africa Jean-Paul Boutibou observed that an adjustment was now taking place in Africa between routes, traffic and aircraft. “There were lots of activities on the new aircraft side,” he said, as airlines switched from standard single-aisle types such as the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 families to regional jets.
“But we don’t leave aside second-hand aircraft.”
Bombardier can offer its CRJ family of regional jets, currently comprising the CRJ700, CRJ900 and CRJ1000 types (the earlier, smaller versions of the CRJ are now out of production but still in service). The larger C-Series, originally developed by Bombardier, has now been taken over by Airbus and will be marketed by that group. (Bombardier also manufactures an extensive range of business jets.)
“Embraer has had tremendous growth in Africa over the past ten years,” reported Embraer commercial aviation Vice Paul, Middle East and Africa Raul Villaron. “We are growing. And we hope to see even more growth in the coming years in Africa.”
“The successes of the regional OEMs in Africa are linked to the market characteristics,” he explained. “Nowadays, 95% of inter-African flights are flown with less than 150 passengers on board. … It’s a good market and Embraer is taking the opportunities that are available.” Embraer can offer its E-Jets family (E170, E175, E190 and E195) and now its new generation E-Jet E2 family (E175-E2, E190-E2, E195-E2) as well as smaller, second-hand ERJ family aircraft.
An example of this development was fastjet, which had replaced its three 145-seat Airbus A319 airliners with 104-seat Embraer E190s. The airline reported last month that this “re-fleeting” had resulted in significantly higher load factors and revenue per seat.
Nor should turboprops be forgotten. For example, fastjet is also acquiring three ATR-72s turboprop airliners, for routes unsuitable for jets. “For turboprops,” in Africa, highlighted ATR VP: sales, Africa, Middle East and Indian Ocean Islands Dominique Dumas, “there are hundreds of opportunities.” But there are “issues”, including financing, infrastructure and other, less predicable problems. “Unfortunately, there are State-owned airlines which select their aircraft before they select their networks!”
In the turboprop segment, Bombardier can offer its Q400. “On the Q400 we have an integrated support programme,” noted Boutibou. For the ATR, there were many authorized maintenance, repair and overhaul organisations around the world, in addition to the OEM itself. “But we do enjoy a good share of the market,” observed Dumas. “Embraer’s ‘secret sauce’ is our customer support and service, especially in Africa,” averred Villaron.
“In Africa, Kenya Airways is an authorized service Centre for E-Jets.” There is a service centre for ERJs at Lanseria International Airport in Gauteng province, South Africa. And recently Embraer and South African airline SA Airlink jointly invested in and set up a training centre at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport; this provided training for flight crews, cabin crews and ground crews.