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Spirit drops Embraer from aircraft campaign

Spirit Airlines is focusing the campaign for its next aircraft order on Airbus and Boeing, ending the consideration of the Embraer E-Jet E2.

The Miramar, Florida-based ultra-low-cost carrier is in the "late innings" of evaluating the Airbus A220, Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 Max families for an order that could top 100 aircraft with deliveries from 2022, Spirit chief executive Ted Christie tells FlightGlobal at the Airport Council International-North America's JumpStart conference in Nashville today.

"The manufacturers want us as a customer, so it's a pretty good spot to be in right now," he says.

Christie says Spirit hopes to finalise an order in the next several months, though he will not rule out an announcement at the Paris air show later this month saying "we'll see how things go".

Spirit is an all-Airbus operator with 135 A320 family aircraft, Cirium's Fleets Analyzer shows. It operates 31 A319s, 62 A320s, 12 A320neos and 30 A321s, and has firm orders for 43 A320neos with deliveries through 2021.

Airline executives have repeatedly said that Spirit is not wedded to the A320 family throughout the campaign that it kicked off in mid-2018.

"We are looking at aircraft across all gauges, seat sizes," Christie told FlightGlobal earlier this year.

On the E2 decision, he says today: "We think the Embraer product is very good. But, for now, we had to tailor ourselves down to just where we are in a Boeing/Airbus world."

Boeing's pending acquisition of an 80% share of Embraer's commercial aircraft division - similar to Airbus purchase of Bombardier's CSeries programme, now the A220, in 2018 - does not appear to be coming soon enough for Spirit. The airframers plan to close the deal by year-end.

Embraer has yet to land orders for its E2 family in the USA outside of the regional sector. SkyWest Airlines has a conditional order for 200 E175-E2s and Trans States Holdings a conditional order for another 100 E175-E2s.

Neither SkyWest nor Trans States can currently operate the E175-E2 for the US mainline carriers due to pilot scope clause restrictions.

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