Embraer sees "enormous" opportunities to sell the E195-E2 across the Americas, as it prepares to deliver the first aircraft to Azul in less than a year.
"I think we're going to have enormous opportunities at the upper end of the family," said John Slattery, president and chief executive of Embraer Commercial Aircraft, at the ISTAT Latin America Forum in Lima on 15 November.
Opportunities include selling the roughly 120-seat narrowbody to US carriers looking for a small mainline narrowbody, and in Latin America to airlines seeking to upgauge from first generation E190s, he says.
Spirit Airlines and United Airlines are among those in the USA considering the E195-E2 among other options, while Aeromexico and Aerolineas Argentinas' regional subsidiary Austral Lineas Aereas are in the midst of campaigns to replace their E190s.
The E195-E2, launched at the Paris air show in 2013, includes a stretched fuselage, new Pratt & Whitney PW1900G geared turbofan engines, and a new wing.
Embraer is on track to certify the E195-E2 in the first half of 2019, and deliver the first aircraft to launch operator Azul early in the second half of the year, says Slattery.
Embraer's sales of E2s lag behind those of the Airbus A220, which received a boost with Airbus' purchase of the previously-named CSeries programme from Bombardier in July. JetBlue Airways, which had was in the midst of a campaign to replace its 60 E190s and a large Airbus A320 family operator, committed to the A220-300 shortly after the deal closed.
Philippe Balducchi, president of Airbus' partnership with Bombardier that owns the A220 programme, told FlightGlobal in July that the European airframer brought "credibility" and a "certainty over the future" that customers want before they invest in a new aircraft family.
The Airbus-Bombardier deal "created a seismic shift shift in the competitive dynamic in the marketplace", says Slattery. Embraer has responded with its own venture with Boeing that would see the Chicago-based airframer take an 80% stake in its commercial aircraft and services businesses.
"Being teamed up in some fashion with the balance sheet and a franchise footprint of somebody like Boeing, I think the customer base broadly sees that as a positive for the market," he says.
Embraer and Boeing are in the "final furlong", as Slattery puts it, of negotiations, after which the deal requires a number of approvals before it could close.
Asked whether Embraer expects a similar sales boost for the E2 when the transaction closes as the A220 saw, he says the airframer already has a "good intimacy" with the US network carriers, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. Each has bought numerous E175s for their regional fleets in recent years, Slattery adds.
Azul is eager to get the aircraft. The Viracopos, Brazil-based carrier anticipates a 14% reduction in trip costs from the shift to the E195-E2 with 136 seats from the E195 with 118 seats, said Priscilla Branco, head of aircraft programmes at Azul, in a presentation at the forum.
Azul plans to replace E190s and E195s on a one-for-one basis with the E2s as quickly as it can once deliveries begin, she says.
The airline operates nine E190s and 54 E195s, with firm orders for 36 E195-E2s, Flight Fleets Analyzer shows.
"We're very excited about pushing Mr Slattery to get his aircraft done sooner so we don't run into the same problems we have with our friends in Toulouse," said John Rodgerson, chief executive of Azul, referring to delays to its Airbus A320neo and A330-900 deliveries at the forum.
Slattery says Embraer is "proud" to deliver the first E195-E2 to Azul, which he calls the airframer's "hometown airline".
Viracopos is 170km from Embraer's Sao Jose dos Campos headquarters, Google Maps shows.
Embraer delivered the first E190-E2 to Wideroe in April, and plans to deliver aircraft to Air Astana and Fuzhou Airlines before year-end.
Azul, which has not finalised the number of E195-E2s it will take in 2019, has sale-and-leaseback financing in place for some if its first deliveries, says Branco. Lessors include AerCap, she adds.
Embraer has firm orders for 132 E-Jet-E2s, including 58 E190-E2s and 74 E195-E2s, Fleets Analyzer shows. It has options for another 52 aircraft and letters of intent for 510 aircraft.