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TRIP to lease three GECAS E-175s, eyes more E-Jets

Brazilian regional carrier TRIP has agreed to lease three Embraer E-175s from GECAS and is seeking to acquire at least two more E-Jets in 2011 in addition to the two E-190s it ordered earlier this week.

TRIP CEO Jose Mario Caprioli tells Flightglobal the carrier has agreed to lease three E-175s from GECAS for delivery in August, September and October of this year. He says all three aircraft were previously operated by Indian carrier Paramount Airways.

Paramount returned three E-175s to GECAS earlier this year following a legal dispute between the two companies.

TRIP currently operates six E-175s, including five new aircraft purchased from the manufacturer and one ex-Cirrus Airlines aircraft leased from Embraer. Earlier this week Embraer announced at the Farnborough air show that TRIP had exercised two of the 10 E-Jet options the carrier had from its 2008 order for five firm E-175s. For these two aircraft, TRIP opted for the larger E-190.

Caprioli, who did not attend Farnborough, says both E-190s will be delivered in the second quarter of 2011. He says TRIP also aims to acquire at least two other E-Jets next year, giving it an E-Jet fleet of at least 13 aircraft by the end of 2011.

"For 2011, we are estimating the acquisition of eight aircraft: two E-Jets that were announced and two more that are still in negotiation, adding a total of four jets and four ATR 72-500s," Caprioli says. "There is still a possibility to add more aircraft than the mentioned for 2011, but it's still not defined."

In addition to the six E-175s, TRIP currently operates 14 ATR 42 and 15 ATR 72 turboprops. Caprioli says the carrier plans to add two more ATRs over the next few months, giving it a fleet of 31 turboprops at year-end.

Caprioli told Flightglobal last year that TRIP's long-term fleet plan envisions renewing its ATR fleet - which now consists of a mix of ATR 42-300/320s, 72-200/210s and 72-500s - and expanding its E-Jet fleet to at least 30 aircraft. In addition to the five firm aircraft and 10 options, TRIP also has 15 E-Jet purchase rights from its original 2008 order.

Caprioli this week declined to say how many E-Jets TRIP now expects to operate over the medium to long-term but says going forward he envisions acquiring a mix of 86-seat E-175s and 106-seat E-190s as well as 47-seat ATR 42s and 67-seat ATR 72s.

"We believe that with our efficient and large fleet, configured by a mix of E-jets and turboprops, we will be able to keep meeting the demands of a diverse range of markets. Today we fly to 80 different cities. Each place has a different need or specific issue. It is extremely important to keep our fleet diversified to conclude our plan of expanding routes and also increasing flights in places where we already operate, so there is high probability that we are going to grow both E-Jet (types) in a balanced way," Caprioli explains.

TRIP, the largest regional carrier in South America, last year carried 2.1 million passengers and generated revenues of R$450 million ($256 million). Revenues were up 43% over 2008 as the carrier's first five jets were placed into service. TRIP ended 2009 with a R$28.5 million profit.

TRIP, which is partly owned by US regional carrier SkyWest Airlines, expects to generate revenues of R$750 million this year. Through the first six months of this year, TRIP's RPKs were up 63% to 665 million, according to Brazil ANAC figures.

The carrier now has a 2.1% share of the fast-growing Brazilian domestic market, making it Brazil's six largest carrier after TAM, Gol, Webjet, Azul and Avianca. TRIP has an extensive codeshare arrangement with Star Alliance member and market leader TAM, which currently does not operate any aircraft smaller than Airbus A319s.

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