Flybe chief executive Jim French believes the UK regional carrier's new deal for up to 140 Embraer aircraft gives it the flexibility to adapt however the market and economy develops.

Flybe placed a firm order for 35 aircraft with 65 options and purchase rights for another 40 jets during the Farnborough air show. Deliveries begin in September next year and the 35 jets on firm order will be completed in March 2017. It values the firm part of the deal at $1.3 billion and the full commitment gives an overall potential value of $5 billion.

While the 88-seat Embraer 175 is the baseline aircraft for the order, French says the order has flexibility to switch between types. Similarly as deliveries of the 175 begin, so leases on some of its 58 Bombardier Q400s will need renewing.

Flybe q400
 © Flybe

This, French explains, gives the carrier the opportunity to moderate the pace of its growth by returning some of its Q400s if necessary - although he stresses the carrier will retain a core fleet of Q400s as part of its two-type strategy.

French says the airline averaged compound growth of around 20% over the last decade, and adds: "If you take 6% compound growth over the next 10 years, we need 140 aircraft."

Flybe already operates the larger Embraer 195 - which French describes as "quite simply the most reliable aircraft I have ever used" - and the smaller Q400 turboprop. "We have to be absolutely flexible," says French. "The Q400s make money on some routes, these [Embraer 175s] will make money on others."

In particular French believes the 175s will be the mainstay of its plans to expand into continental Europe, which also chimes with the carrier's recently struck codeshare with Air France.

Flybe Embraer E195
 © HAMFive/

"Everything we are doing is to take the business into continental Europe. To do that you need the partnerships and you need the aircraft," he says, adding he believes there will be plenty of opportunities in the coming years as a result of consolidation in Europe.

"There is always a second phase to consolidation. There's always a time to sit back and say 'Do I need all of this?'. Whatever happens, we are in a great position to take advantage of any opportunities," says French.

Source: Flight Daily News