UK-based flybe is looking to extend its low-fares network to the Mediterranean and other medium-haul destinations following the delivery of its first Embraer 195.
Flybe is the launch customer for the E-195 and took delivery of the first of at least 14 E-195s in September. It will begin using the 118-seat aircraft in October from Birmingham, Norwich and Southampton.
The largest and latest version of Embraer's 170/190 family, the E-195 initially replaces three Boeing 737s flybe has on lease. Flybe will also phase out its fleet of 14 BAe146s, which chief executive Jim French says consume 20% more fuel, produce 25% more emissions and are 35% noisier than the E-195. By the end of 2008, flybe will operate only the E-195 and Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s.
Flybe made the Q400 the centrepiece of its 2002 rebranding as a low-cost carrier and now operates 24 of the type with another 22 on order. Other low-cost carriers have since followed flybe in ordering the Q400 or its rival, the ATR 72. Several low-cost carriers are now considering the E-195 or the smaller E-190, launched late last year by US low-fare carrier JetBlue Airways.
"We have no doubt the E-195 will make a very significant contribution," French says. "It is clear Embraer recognised the potential of the low-cost market. It has produced an aircraft that is the right size for our business, the right size for the regional business and the right size for the customer."
Flybe will initially use its E-195s on trunk and other high-volume routes, including Channel Islands-London. Eventually the E-195 may be used to extend flybe's network to the Mediterranean, as well as routes throughout Europe. About 80% of flybe's routes are domestic and its average stage length is one hour. France, where flybe serves 13 points, consists of about half its international routes but it just added Amsterdam and in late October will be starting its first German services.
Flybe, which launched 42 new routes in 2005, hopes the E-195 will let it expand further while continuing to stay under the radar screen of easyJet and Ryanair. For example, flybe in September quickly announced plans to set up a base in Inverness after easyJet decided to drop its Inverness-Belfast service. ■