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 fleet.
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.