The big appeal of small narrow-body aircraft.

The big appeal of small narrow-body aircraft.

There are 3,000 small narrow-body (NB) aircraft flying today, with many airlines looking to replace these aircraft in the next few years. Choosing which new aircraft to introduce into a fleet is determined by three main factors – aircraft economics, passenger demand and operational model. The latest generation of small NB aircraft, like the Embraer E-Jets E2, offer airlines unique features and capabilities.

New Opportunities
Despite weaknesses in the global economy, there is no let-up in people’s desire to travel. However, the flow of people has changed after the pandemic, and with the rapid growth of secondary and tertiary airports (reflecting the change in work patterns post Covid), airlines are now assessing the ability to launch routes to smaller city airports, while, at the same time, connecting communities and businesses in more remote locations.

Taking into consideration these challenges, small NBs, carrying between 70 and 150 passengers and flying routes up to 6 hours, give airlines greater flexibility, complementing larger aircraft for low-density operations. The E2 family is the perfect fit for this scenario and adds a tremendous economic benefit by offering a similar cost per seat to a larger NB, but with higher profitability.

Superior comfort and space
Larger NBs are popular due to their lower cost per seat, but typically, passengers do not report a comfortable experience. This is mainly because of the six-abreast configuration and tight seats – the person unlucky enough to be sitting in the middle seat being squeezed. Previous generations of small NBs had a similar cabin design as larger NBs and inherited the same cabin experience. The arrival of new aircraft like Embraer’s E2 has transformed this. The lowest noise levels of any new generation jet, the E2’s 2+2 seating with no middle seat and wider aisle gives passengers a much better experience, providing the feeling of control of their own space, further enhanced by the larger overhead bin that provides space for every passenger’s carry-on luggage. The wide aisle also helps airline operations, speeding up the boarding and deplaning process, resulting in quicker turnarounds.

All-round sustainability
Alongside providing customers with a more comfortable cabin experience, airlines are also seeking ways to reduce their carbon emissions and meet ESG/sustainability goals. Small NB aircraft provide the ideal solution. Take the E2. Because of the introduction of new engines, an improvement in aerodynamics, and its short runway landing capability, the E2 achieves a 25%* reduction in fuel burn and emissions, the lowest CO2 emissions of any new generation jet. Equally impressive is the E2’s transition to alternative fuels with 100% SAF compatibility by 2028.

As airlines look to the future, day-to-day challenges remain. These include high fuel and maintenance costs as well as rising airport taxes and fees. Consequently, there is an urgent need by operators for new aircraft, and already in 2024, we are seeing a marked increase in small NB orders. No other platform can match the combination of outstanding efficiencies, lowest emissions, superior comfort, and unbeatable economics – key considerations for airlines seeking a return on their investment, network expansion, and accelerated opportunity.
* compared to first generation E-Jets.

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