South African regional carrier Airlink will focus on standardising configurations within its Embraer regional jet fleet after a period of rapid growth since starting operations under its own brand three and a half years ago.

Airlink has grown to a fleet of 66 Embraer aircraft, ranging from 37-seat EJR-135s and 44-seat ERJ-140s to a mix of larger Embraer 170, 190 and 195 jets.

Airlink livery Embraer 190 November 2020

Source: Airlink

”For the foreseeable future, certainly our next five-year time horizon, I can’t see us putting our name on a piece paper for new aircraft,” Airlink chief executive Rodger Foster tells FlightGlobal during a recent wide-ranging interview.

On the one hand, he says the airline plans to operate its 27 ERJ-135/145s regional jets for as long as possible. “They are paid-up assets and they are very useful on the thinner routes in order to get to the frequencies [we need],” Foster explains.

”As far as the E-Jets are concerned, we need to rationalise the variants there. We will probably end up with only one standard type going into the future. It may take us a few years to get to that. At the moment we are operating a few Embraer 170s, a rather large fleet of Embraer 190s – not all in standard [98 seat] configuration – we’ve got a couple of variants which are in a different configuration.

”Part of our efforts over the next year or two is to get them into a standard configuration.”

The airline also operates six 107-seat Embraer 195s, but ultimately might look to bring in bigger aircraft.

”When you think of the next step, which will probably be in three or four years from now, there will probably be some sense and sensibility in us stepping out of the 107 seats because it is too close to 98 seats and getting into something quite a lot bigger, so that there is a gap between our 98 seats and whatever it is going to be in the future,” he says.

“We haven’t determined that,” Foster adds. ”It would probably be used aircraft rather than new just because of the price-point of used and what it means for your balance sheets.”