Airlink of Johannesburg, South Africa’s
largest independent regional airline, is getting a whole lot bigger. Starting in the first half of this year, the
carrier will receive the first of five E-Jets from ECC Leasing. Three E170s and two E190s will join the
The acquisition is part of Airlink’s
modernization plan that calls for the replacement of its aging Avro RJ80s over
the next three years. The initiative
also includes more aircraft to meet growing demand across its network of 36
cities in 9 countries. The airline
carries some 1.4 million passengers annually on nearly 45,000 flights.
Airlink CEO Rodger Foster sees a need for a
fleet of 13 E-Jets and is in the process of sourcing an additional 8 E190s from
the market. Their range and ETOPS
capability allow the carrier to access new markets that were previously beyond
reach and bring air service to communities that never had scheduled flights.
Airlink is one of the few Embraer customers
that operates both ERJs and E-Jets. By
the end of this year, the airline will grow to a fleet of 30 ERJ135s, ERJ140s
and ERJ145s. And now with its E-Jets,
Airlink has jets ranging from 37 to 100 seats and flies 5 of the 7 aircraft in
Embraer’s two commercial jet families.
Although Airlink is the first E-Jet customer in South Africa, Embraer
airplanes have been flying on the continent since 1978. Today, there are 127 of the company’s
aircraft flying with 39 airlines in 19 countries. Embraer’s very first delivery to an African
customer was an EMB110 turboprop to Nouvelle Air Affaires of Gabon. Nearly forty years later, that airplane is
still flying around Africa.