Embraer is inaugurating a new training centre in Johannesburg in 2018 and has seen huge growth in its African business over the past years. With the new generation of E-jets entering the market in 2018, Embraer has big plans for the continent.
AviaDev’s Jon Howell (JH), spoke with The Vice President, Sales Raul Villaron (RV).
JH: You’ve recently been promoted to Vice President Sales for the Middle East and Africa Region. What are your main priorities in this new role?
RV: Over the last 10 years Embraer has grown considerably in Africa, moving from a fleet of 40+ aircraft, predominantly turboprops, to more than 150 units, mostly jets. This growth comes on the back of Embraer commitment to the continent and its highly efficient right sized aircraft ranging from 30 to 150 seats.
My first main priority is to make sure our current customers are happy, flying efficiently and profitably. I will work closely with our Customer Support team to keep delivering an outstanding performance to our customers.
Another important priority is to continue growing our customer base in Africa. My short-term target is to increase the Embraer fleet in the region to 200 aircraft with more than 50 customers. This grow will come from brand new E-Jets and E2s and also from pre-owned E-Jets and ERJs.
JH: How does Embraer view the African opportunity in the short to medium term?
RV: The potential for air transportation on the African continent is huge.
According to IATA, the aviation industry in Africa already supports seven million jobs and generates more than $80 billion in GDP; a significant and positive impact on the economy, tourism and service sectors. However, those figures only go to illustrate the opportunities for growth that most sectors can only dream of, astonishingly, Africa’s share of global air traffic is less than 3%. Yet despite the many challenges, forecasts for the future are more than positive: by 2034, air traffic in Africa will grow with an average yearly increase of 4.7%, reaching a total of 294 million passengers. Seven of the ten fastest growing passenger markets over the next 20 years will be on the African continent.
In this context, it is an absolute necessity to develop direct connections between African cities.
85% of flights within Africa depart with less than 120 passengers on-board. The majority of the aircraft serving those markets are large narrow bodies, with more than 150 seats, resulting in an average load factor below 69% – a lot lower than the world average of more than 80%. Another major impact of deploying large narrow bodies into thin routes is the resulting low number of frequencies. More than 70% of the intra-African routes are served with less than one flight per day. It appears clearly that rightsizing is the key to efficiency and profitability.
From a more practical standpoint, we could summarize the Embraer approach to the Africa opportunities with our new motto: Challenge, Create, Outperform.
We are thrilled to be challenged by our customers in the unique African environment. When you are challenged, you have to come up with creative solutions. One great example is the opening of the new Embraer training center in Johannesburg that will address one well known shortage of our industry in Africa: the training of local skilled workforce. Thanks to this brand new training center, local pilots and technicians will be trained and will support new airlines as well as the already 45 existing Embraer operators in the continent, flying more than 150 aircraft in 23 African countries. Airlink, our strategic partner for this training facility, is benefiting directly from this and is steadily growing its ERJ and E-Jet fleet. Fastjet, with its regional expansion in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Tanzania is another example.
Embraer is committed to developing air traffic growth and connectivity in the African continent. Right-Sizing, Best Economics and Tailored Local Support are the key value proposition that we are offering to the airlines to seize the huge opportunities on the African market.
JH: In terms of exciting developments, the E2-jets are entering service in 2018. Have you seen strong interest in these from the African market?
RV: The E2 will perform its first commercial flight with Wideroe in April 2018. This is a great achievement for a program that has always been on time, on specifications and on time. Due to a very successful certification campaign, we even announced an improved fuel burn performance from 1.3% for the E190-E2 that is now saving 17.3% fuel burn compare to the E190-E1, our first generation aircraft. As previously mentioned, we at Embraer live for the challenge and this is leading us to outperform for our customers.
With an amazing tiger painting, the E190-E2 prototype recently visited Ethiopia and Morocco. Airlines are very excited about this game changing aircraft that is bringing new economics and setting new comfort standards. We are also working closely with the existing E-Jet operators on a natural evolution toward the E2. Progressively transitioning from an E1 fleet to an E2 fleet has been anticipated by Embraer and everything has been put in place to make it as easy, short and cost effective as possible. For instance, E1 pilots will be able to transition to the E2 with a 2,5 days training, without requiring any FSS session.
Our E2 family is ready to set new standards in the aviation industry by delivering the best economics and comfort in the single aisle segment. This will allow many African airlines to densify their network by opening new routes or increasing their frequency while maximizing the profits. This is why we call the E2 aircraft the ‘’Profit Hunter’’ and we will see many of them flying in the African sky in the coming years.