Cityhopper eyes more Embraer 190s as Fokker 50s go

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Dutch regional carrier KLM Cityhopper is hoping to add another seven Embraer 190s to the 10 it has on firm order, freeing its Fokker 70s to replace 12 Fokker 50s slated for withdrawal by September 2010.

KLM president and CEO Peter Hartman revealed last month that Air France-KLM was looking to acquire seven more Embraers. But he did not specify the variant and any deal depends on the Brazilian development bank coming up with an export agreement by 31 May.

Speaking to ATI during the European Regions Airline Association conference in Warsaw, KLM Cityhopper chairman and CEO Michel Coumans said he was hoping that the Embraer negotiations would enable Cityhopper to firm seven of its 10 Embraer 190 options.

If the talks are successful, the additional aircraft would be in place by September 2010, taking Cityhopper to a planned fleet of 17 Embraer 190s, five Fokker 100s and 26 Fokker 70s. He says: "[The Fokker 50s] will start to go from September 2009. It will take us until September 2010 to phase them out."

The Dutch regional is also taking five Fokker 70s from its Air France-KLM sister carrier Regional. A third aircraft will arrive next month and will be joined by the remaining pair by year-end.

"Whether we replace all Fokker 50 routes [using Fokker 70 capacity] depends on how the market develops. The other question is how high-speed rail does as an alternative to flying," adds Coumans.

Cityhopper's Fokker 70 fleet will be up for renewal in the longer term, but Coumans says he can afford to wait for potential efficiency gains from the manufacturers.

"There are some interesting improvements planned for the Embraer 170 and 175," he adds, hinting that these are likely to be fuel-efficiency and weight-related.

Cityhopper will also have to replace its five remaining Fokker 100s. Coumans says: "We will definitely need more [Embraer] options."