Flybe Dash-8-400. Photo: Flybe.

LONDON — Flybe has recently outlined their strategic plan regarding their fleet of Dash 8’s and Embraer aircraft. As Europe’s largest regional airline, they concluded that the Q400 is “the best core aircraft for its current and future needs” and added that they will remain as “the backbone of the Flybe fleet for the foreseeable future”.

Flybe emphasized via a press release that the Q400 is faster than the other turboprops in the market, with performance compared to that of a jet aircraft over the relatively short sectors that the carrier operates. They said that it is cheaper to operate than similar-sized jet aircraft as well as it having excellent operating economics including its fuel efficiency. They didn’t discredit Embraer however, saying that they will continue to operate a number of E175’s for longer and busier routes.

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The carrier’s overall strategy for their fleet of 85 is to actually reduce it, rather than enlarge it. Over the next three years, the carrier will see 15 aircraft in their fleet be phased out and returned to lessors, due to the carrier wanting to concentrate on profitable routes only. This means that the fleet will reduce to 70 by the year 2020.

As part of the 15 aircraft to be phased out of the fleet, nine of the E195’s that they have in their fleet will also be returned by 2020 respectively.

Flybe’s Q400 fleet has an average spell of 10 years and has emphasized that they are aiming to keep that average as low as possible. Such fleet modernization and reduction can help in that respect. They did add as a side note that they will retain their remaining Q400 aircraft, and where economically suitable, will extend its service life. Ultimately, this will save the carrier money as they will not have to find any additional capital in buying newer aircraft.

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Over the course of 2019, the carrier is set to receive four Embraer E175’s, which was part of a heritage order. With updates to the order, the airline will receive the Embraer E175 aircraft type, but with the new winglet technology that is going to help reduce fuel consumption. Other than the aircraft they are set to receive, Flybe will not be planning any additional orders in the foreseeable future.

Flybe Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 G-JEDP seen departing runway 15 at Birmingham (EGBB, BHX). Picture: Thomas Saunders.

Flybe CEO, Christine Ourmières- Widener said“Flybe’s strategy is to reduce the fleet size to an optimum level and make the business demand-driven rather than capacity-led. Our fleet configuration is an important part of that strategy. We examined exhaustively all the options and concluded the Bombardier Q400 is the best core aircraft for us. Its superior economy, speed and quietness are ideal for a regional airline such as ourselves. Together with a number of Embraer E175s, our future fleet will be the optimum required for our specific regional route network.”

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Fred Cromer, President, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft added: “We are delighted that Flybe, our long-term customer, and largest Q400 operator, remains committed to the Q400 as its preferred turboprop. With its jet-like performance, industry-leading reliability and unbeatable economics, we are glad that the Q400 turboprop will continue to support Flybe as the airline further imposes itself as one of Europe’s leading regional providers.”

John Slattery, President & CEO of Embraer Commercial Aviation commented: “Flybe’s commitment to the E175 as its regional jet of choice is a great endorsement of the type as a key part of its wider fleet. Now, introducing in its fleet the most updated version of the E175 with lower fuel burn, Flybe will enjoy even greater operating economics on their jet-service routes. We are looking forward to continuing to support and work with Flybe in the future.”

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This overall fleet modernization comes as part of Flybe’s growth strategy, which was set out by former CEO Saad Hammad, and is being continued by Christine Ourmieres-Widener beyond the three-year delivery plan of returning back to profitability. In the 2016/17 year, the airline finally recorded a profit mid through the period with a £15.9 million profit after recording a loss of £7.5 million in the same first half period as the year before. 2017/18 saw that profit reduce to around £8.4 million, which could spell some doubts due to its increased costs in aircraft maintenance and a one-off cost of an IT contract for its system operations. That being said, Widener’s priority will ultimately be the restoration of its strength in terms of profitability, and maybe someday down the line when they identify the busier routes, should they then increase their fleet size again.