Alliance Airlines will bolster its fledgling jet fleet with the purchase of 16 Embraer E190s, on top of the 14 already headed for its Brisbane hangars.
The E190s, previously flown by American Airlines and retired in April this year, have been snared in an $85 million deal which also includes one spare engine.
Alliance will collect the keys to the first five jets this month, and then one per month will be handed over across January to November 2021.
The E190s will arrive in American's 99-seat configuration of
- 11 business class seats (in a 2-1 arrangement) with 36" pitch
- 8 extra-legroom economy seats (at the exit row) with 34" pitch
- 80 economy seats with 31-32" pitch
“The 100 seat jet aircraft market globally will rebound quickly as carriers look to focus on total trip costs rather than traditional metrics,” predicts Alliance Airlines managing director Scott McMillan.
“The additional capacity will be deployed to capture several growth opportunities across Australia including contract flying and wet and dry lease operations.”
McMillan added that one noticeable side-effect of COVID-19 “has been the market shift away from regular public transport to charters.”
While Qantas holds a 20% stake in Alliance, and has expressed its interest in "taking a majority position" in the company, Alliance also maintains an extensive partnership with Virgin Australia.
This is likely to add some 40 regional routes to Alliance's network, following the streamlining and downsizing of Virgin's fleet under new owners Bain Capital, along with a sharper focus on the most profitable routes.
Alliance's E-Jet experience
Alliance's first tranche of 14 E190s, which came from Panama’s Copa Airlines, come in two variants with 10-12 business class seats and 84-88 economy seats.
Alliance Airlines CEO Lee Schofield has previously told Executive Traveller that a number of “slightly different configurations” could end up taking wing across the E190 fleet, from a two-cabin layout to all-economy and even an all-business VIP model.
“Our bread and butter is single class economy (but) we’ll have the ability to change our cabins… included in the transaction was a significant component of step-ups including cabin interiors and spare parts.”
“We’ll have the flexibility to operate the aircraft either in that dual-class cabin or in single class with 100 seats.”
“We are have a Fokker 70 running around in all business class, with 48 seats; we have another Fokker 70 in a 24-seat VIP configuration.”
“So we do like to have a bit of variability in the cabin configuration, and also we like to have the ability to change the interior configuration even while we are in service.”
No middle seat
Regardless of how Alliance’s E-Jets are configured, Schofield expects they’ll be welcomed by the airline’s wide array of passengers, which spans from the resources market to holidaymakers and private charter flights.
“The E190 is an exceptional aircraft from the passenger comfort point of view. You can fit up to 114 seats in these things, so even in an all-economy 100 seat layout, that's a pretty generous passenger experience.”
And unlike the larger Boeing 737s which are the workhorse of Qantas and Virgin Australia, even economy seating will be just two seats either side of the aisle, so there’s no dreaded middle seat.
“We already see that in the Fokker aircraft, having only five abreast,” Schofield recounts.
“Only 20% of the cabin has a middle seat, so you have to have over an 80% passenger load before you use the middle seats.”
“That's always been received very well by our passengers, and the E190 has the added advantage of no middle seats.”