LONDON — On Tuesday, April 24, 2018, and less than five years after the launch of the program at the 50th Paris Air Show, passengers onboard Widerøe (WF) flight WF622 had the opportunity to travel in the world’s first Embraer E190-E2. The first of three variants developed to compete in the 80 to 130 seat market.
Airways had the opportunity to be among those onboard, taking a closer look at what the E190-E2 has to offer, and to the service of Widerøe, its launch customer.
Bergen Airport is the second busiest air terminal in Norway, and in that Tuesday early morning, it was no exception, as it was bustling with activity. The only difference this time was a podium, located just in front of gate B18, where a small ceremony took place before boarding call.
Aslak Sverdrup, CEO of Bergen Airport, considers that the E190-E2 is an opportunity for the future, as it will enable Widerøe to expand its route network while generating jobs, particularly in the area of tourism. According to the most recent official reports, the industry contributed to 4.2% of the gross domestic product for 2016 in Norway.
Operational and Organizational Challenges
“The introduction of the Embraer E190-E2 represents a new chapter our history,” said a beaming Stein Nielsen, CEO of Widerøe. The new generation aircraft is the first jet that the airline operates since its foundation in 1934, having had until now an all-turboprop fleet.
— Roberto Leiro (@rleiro) April 24, 2018
“During 84 years, Widerøe has grown its network to serve nearly every airport in Norway. Not because it’s easy, but it’s important to offer transport to our customers. The E190-E2 sets not only a major operational change but also an organizational one,” Nielsen said.
The positive growth trend in the tourism industry in Norway is fueling these changes in Widerøe. The incorporation of a jet fleet will enable the carrier to serve high-demand routes in shorter times while remaining competitive in a market led by low-cost carriers, and two major airlines in the country: Norwegian (DY) and Scandinavian Airlines (SK).
Despite the competition, Widerøe sees opportunities in the market, and now is set to expand to Germany in August, with new flights from Bergen to Munich (MUC) and Hamburg (HAM), and to Denmark, Sweden and London-Stansted (STN).
“This is a great commitment by Widerøe, as several of these new destinations are popular hubs that offers travelers plenty of connections to other destinations in Europe, making them attractive for both tourists an business travelers,” Nielsen commented.
In addition to this expansion, Bergen will expand its domestic portfolio route, thus allowing travelers to connect with the rest of Widerøe’s network on the west coast of Norway.
The Inaugural Flight
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony and a short break, around 110 passengers were invited to board. The jetliner (LN-WEA · MSN 19020009) was delivered on April 9, taking off from Embraer’s premises at São José dos Campos (SDK), with stops at Recife (REC), Gran Canaria (LPA), and Aberdeen (ABZ), before arriving in Bergen.
In the jetway, the cabin crew lead by Christian Skjelstad gave away small E190-E2 models to highlight the event to the press, VIP, and passengers.
Also, Embraer offered unique green leather baggage tags, engraved with both the name of the airline and the airframer.
The first impression inside the aircraft is the contrast between the dark grey leather upholstery, and the white cabin is much clearer when compared to the prior EJet generation. Widerøe selected a single-class cabin configuration with 114 Z85 seats, provided by Zodiac Aerospace, using a 29in (73.6cm) pitch with 2° of recline.
Another major plus of the E190-E2 cabin is the overhead bins. While the external look seems to be the same as those available in the E1 family aircraft, Embraer increased the depth by 3 in (7.62cm). The bins are manufactured by EZ-Air, a joint venture company between Embraer and Zodiac Aerospace, which also provided the elegant and compact Passenger Service Units (PSUs).
Another feature of the cabin is the sidewalls, now integrated into the ceiling to give a clean and modern look.
While the lack of Wi-Fi or an in-flight entertainment suite may sound disappointing for some travelers, Nielsen assured that the fleet is ready to be fitted with an in-flight Wi-Fi product yet to be provided by Panasonic. The airline claims that customers will be able to stream multimedia content without inconveniences, with as much as 250mbps of high-speed connectivity.
Once doors were closed, the cabin crew performed the usual safety briefing as the engines came to life without too much noise, a feature that was a constant during our flight.
— Roberto Leiro (@rleiro) April 24, 2018
As we taxied down to runway 17, another distinctive feature of the E190-E2 was evident from our window seat and is the clean-sheet wing design, which has been optimized for each E-Jet E2 variant. The raked wingtip (similar in design to those found in modern widebodies), and the flap seal system are also notable characteristics of this design.
At 07:35 local time, the Pratt & Whitney PW1900G powerplants showed their power roaring down the runway, lifting the aircraft without too much effort and noise, and to the joy and celebration of those onboard.
We reached our altitude of 39,000 feet in 33 minutes after takeoff. During the uneventful flight, the crew offered cupcakes garnished with the colors of the airline, and coffee. Our descent began 30 minutes before our landing in Tromsø, with a stunning approach to runway 19.
After our arrival, the flight was welcomed with the customary water cannon salute of the local fire department, and once parked on the apron, the world’s first revenue service of the E190-E2 came to an end.
Widerøe will receive two more E190-E2s the first half of 2018. It holds purchase rights for an additional 12 E2s.
Embraer expects to deliver between 8 and 10 E2s in this year, with Air Astana (KC) next on the list of E2 customers.
The E190-E2 certainly had a perfect start in the revenue service phase, matching the uneventful progress of its development. The challenge now is to outlive the commercial success of the E1 generation amid rising competition.