(eTN) – Today will see the formal signing ceremony between “The Pride of Africa,” aka Kenya Airways (KQ), and Brazilian aircraft manufacturer, Embraer. During the recent Paris Air Show, the initial announcement was made that KQ had expressed their intent to buy 10 more Embraer E190AR jets, and this deal is being formally inked today.
It was, however, also learned that options for a further at least 10 more Embraer jets, not determined yet whether the 170 or 190 version, will be obtained by Kenya Airways, which can at an appropriate time be turned into firm orders, keeping potential production slots available for the airline.
mbraer has been aggressively courting African airlines, backed by the Brazilian government and credit guarantees by the Brazilian export credit agency, and after capturing an initial order from regional aviation giant Embraer, positioned itself for a deal expanding potentially to 30 aircraft. KQ right now flies 7 Embraer 170 and 190 aircraft, with 3 more to be delivered under an existing deal between now and early 2012 before the second firm order for 10 more 190s comes up for deliveries.
Regional and continental expansion plans by “The Pride of Africa” were boosted by the acquisition of the Embraer jets, which unlike its CRJ competitor jet by Bombardier, offers conventional underfloor baggage and cargo space. Operating economics and the ability to fly to smaller airports and destinations with lower demand soon convinced the KQ economists and analysts that they had a winner on their fleet and were swift to convert interest into contracts.
All Embraer jets are delivered to Kenya Airways in a two-class configuration, and while the business class is clearly less than on the airline’s B737 fleet, it nevertheless offers a degree of additional comfort to their premium passengers. The seating, in both economy and business is 2×2 and is considered ideal for Kenya’s domestic routes between Nairobi and Mombasa, Malindi, and Kisumu, and also for some of the regional routes where demand could not fill the larger B737s while new destinations across the African continent can now be opened up as the E190AR has the reach and offers optimal seat availability.
The ceremony today will elevate Embraer’s status with Kenya Airways to very nearly the fleet level the airline maintains with Boeing jets and is very likely also a precursor to Embraer supporting Kenya Airways in establishing a maintenance base at Nairobi, where other airlines from the continent, opting to purchase or lease Embraer aircraft, can then have their jets serviced and maintained, possibly creating a number of additional highly-paid positions for Kenyans trained as aviation engineers and technicians.