US low-cost airline and Embraer work to overcome teething troubles encountered during introduction of 100-seater

Delays in delivery, software “glitches” and other operational issues related to JetBlue Airways’ less than stellar roll-out into service of its Embraer 190s are in the process of being hammered out with the Brazilian regional jet manufacturer and should be resolved by mid-year, according the airline’s chairman and chief executive David Neeleman.

At an earnings conference call to announce the carrier’s first quarterly and full-year net losses since going public in 2002, Neeleman said: “The good news is that we’re working closely with Embraer to get deliveries back on schedule. They are still running a little bit late, but we’re confident that by mid-year, they’ll catch up.”

JetBlue chief financial officer John Owen added that both sides are “attacking all the issues that we can attack on the plane” and that four of the five software problems identified by the carrier have been remedied.

The absence of crew rating for low-visibility operations (which requires 100h of flying) has also affected performance. But this should be resolved in a few months when the carrier receives certification of the Rockwell Collins dual liquid crystal display head-up guidance system for the aircraft.

Meanwhile, the E-190’s dispatch reliability has been moving upwards, according to the two JetBlue executives.

Similarly, Embraer is confident that the initial adjustment phase will end shortly. “Every new product, as it is introduced into the fleet of an operator, undergoes adjustments to meet the specific conditions of its operation,” it says, noting that some of the technology in JetBlue’s E-190s was “customised especially” for the carrier.

“Embraer reiterates its confidence in the E-190, an aircraft that offers optimal operating conditions, performance and comfort.”

While solutions are implemented, JetBlue has slowed its 
E-190 roll-out to improve on-time performance. But this reduction in available seat-kilometre capacity – which has been cut by 30% for the first quarter – will result in a temporary “bump” in costs.

JetBlue was launch operator for the 100-seat E-190 in November, when it initiated services from Boston to New York Kennedy. By the end of the year the airline had received seven E-190s.

The carrier now acknowledges that its E-190 schedule was too optimistic. “We were anxious to fly the aircraft 11.5h or 12h to be able to get the costs that we know that we can have, but obviously that’s difficult to do why you’re flying a new aircraft,” says Neeleman.

Nonetheless, JetBlue remains confident in its decision to acquire E-190s. “The reason we purchased that aircraft obviously is that we were convinced that we could start business in markets, that we could have an accretive revenue picture where certainly our CASM [cost per available seat mile] would be a bit higher on this aircraft, but that the revenue increases would outpace the increase in costs, and all early indications are from our new markets that this is going to be the case,” says Neeleman.


Source: Flight International