LOT plans all-E-Jet short-haul fleet, but mulls 120 seaters

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LOT Polish Airlines will transition to an all-Embraer E-Jet short-haul fleet within two years but does not rule out acquiring a "120-plus seater" to augment its European operations.

Speaking at the recent Airline Business organised World Air Forum 2011 in Amsterdam, LOT chief executive Marcin Pirog said that the Polish flag carrier currently flies nine Boeing 737s (two -500s and seven -400s) alongside its expanding E-Jet fleet, but is rolling the 737s over to the Brazilian jet. "We are phasing out the remaining Boeings and the scenario is that we will operate with a one-type fleet of Embraer E-Jets," he said.

Currently LOT operates 23 E-Jets - 11 E-170s, 12 E-175s and the first of 16 E-195s on order, which was introduced earlier this year.

Pirog displayed a fleet-plan chart which showed the airline's remaining two 737-500s and two 737-400s leaving the fleet by mid-2013, by which time seven E-195s will have been delivered. The remaining five 737-400s are due to exit by the end of 2013 as the E-195 fleet expands further. LOT's E-195 fleet will reach 16 aircraft by 2015.

Pirog acknowledged that the transition away from the larger 737-400 to the 112-seat E-195 may mean the airline faces capacity shortage on certain dense routes to western European points like Barcelona and London and is considering ways to address this. "We could need a 120-plus seater for these destinations, but if we introduce [Airbus] A320s or 737s it will add to costs and affect the fleet simplicity, so we are thinking about increasing frequencies rather than buying bigger aircraft."

A benefit of the E-Jet, said Pirog, is that it means that airports like London City can be served as an alternative to slot-restricted Heathrow if LOT is looking to increase frequencies to the UK capital.

"We will like to see what's coming in the next two years and the positive feedback on the cost side before we decide what our fleet will be after 2015," he added.

Simon Newitt, vice-president airline market for Embraer in Europe, told WAF 2011 delegates that the E-Jet has secured around 200 orders over the last two years from a broad mix of airlines. "If you look at who are ordering, we have representatives from the whole customer spectrum - from regional airlines to low-cost airlines, to evolving airlines, to network carriers to some leasing companies."