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Eastern Air Lines cancels order for 20 MRJs

Eastern Air Lines and Mitsubishi Aircraft have terminated a purchase agreement for 20 MRJ regional jets, shaving off close to 10% of the manufacturer's firm order book.

Mitsubishi tells FlightGlobal in an interview that the sales agreement, which also includes options for an additional 20 of the type, was terminated "very recently", following the airline's acquisition by luxury private charter operator Swift Air.

"They sold their business to Swift, they returned their AOC to the US FAA, so this is a change in their business consideration and we agreed that the best option for both parties was to conclude the termination," says Yugo Fukuhara, Mitsubishi's vice president and general manager of sales and marketing.

He adds that while the loss of Eastern is "regrettable", he expects it to have no "major impact" on the MRJ programme.

The deal with Eastern was signed in 2014, with deliveries then set for 2019. The delivery timeline has however been pushed back due to two rounds of programme delays since. The manufacturer would not disclose the updated delivery schedule for Eastern, but says that those slots can now be offered to existing and potential customers.

With Eastern's cancellation, Mitsubishi now has firm orders for 213 aircraft from six customers, comprising All Nippon Airways, Trans States Holdings, SkyWest Inc, Air Mandalay, Japan Airlines and Aerolease Aviation. Swedish lessor Rockton signed a letter of intent for 10 MRJ90s in 2016, but this still has not been firmed.

Asked about the status of Rockton's LOI, Fukuhara points out that the agreement was signed shortly before a two-year delay to the MRJ schedule was announced in 2017.

He adds that the airframer is in constant discussions with the lessor, which has asked to incorporate the latest aircraft specifications and performance into the agreement.

It also has Air Mandalay as a customer with firm orders for six aircraft. The Myanmar carrier has, however, suspended operations several times over the past years. Fukuhara says the carrier remains a customer with whom Mitsubishi is in close communication.

The MRJ sales and marketing team now has two priorities: taking care of existing customers "under a very tough programme situation", and to continue discussions with potential clients. There are several ongoing sales campaigns, although they are unlikely to be concluded in the near term, says Fukuhara.

He is also confident of the programme's progress and says delivery to launch customer All Nippon Airways is on track for mid-2020.

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