Evidence is starting to emerge that Embraer could be poised for a sales uptick as airlines think twice about ordering the troubled 737 Max when it comes to replenishing or expanding their fleets.
In the immediate post-Soviet period, the fleet structure of the new airlines that sprang up across the former USSR republics outside of Russia was roughly the same: Russian-made airliners supplemented by older-model used Boeings and Airbuses. Eventually, the older Soviet-era aircraft would be retired and replaced by vintage 737s.
This is now changing in Ukraine and Belarus. The old 737s are being retired, but instead of replacing them with new Boeing or Airbus models, the airlines are opting for Embraer’s E-jets. Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) took delivery of its sixth Embraer aircraft in March of this year. This is the first E195 in the fleet; the other five are E190s.
The Ukrainian carrier is planning to add five more Embraer models to the fleet by next year. From its base at Kiev-Borispol airport the airline also operates three 777-200ERs, four B767-300ERs, 26 737-800s, and four 737-900s.
Earlier, the airline had been planning to take delivery of three 737 Max 8 models, but that decision has been put on hold pending the results from investigations into the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines tragedies.
According to a UIA spokesperson, “The [737 Max] aircraft will enter commercial operation only when the required procedures are carried out, the aircraft complies with all safety requirements, and permission has been received for its flights from the aviation authorities of at least from the FAA, EASA, and State Aviation Authority of Ukraine.”
This has led some analysts to speculate if there may be more E-Jet orders for the Ukrainian carrier in the offing due to the issues related to the 737 Max design, supplanting the Boeing orders in the near term.
UIA officials said that not only are the Embraer aircraft more fuel-efficient to operate than the older 737s, but they also have a particular utility for the commercial routes flown in Ukraine. The E190/E195 models can operate from some smaller aerodromes that cannot accommodate the larger Boeing models.
In the week following Easter, Belarus carrier Belavia took on an E175 and an E195, for a total now of nine E-jets in the fleet. Three more E195s are to be delivered in the next 12 months. The airline intends to use the E-jets to retire its legacy 737-300 and -500 models, as well as its three Bombardier CRJ200LRs.
vLike UIA, Belavia had planned to acquire several 737 Max 8 models, and it is unlikely that the current problems with this model will cancel these deliveries. There will be delays, however, most likely pushing these deliveries scheduled originally for the middle of this year into 2020.