Will JetBlue ditch its Embraer ERJ-190 fleet?

JetBlue is conducting a fleet review that could have significant repercussions for the future of Embraer and its new E2.

Almost every US airline has dropped the 76-114 seat ERJ-190. It isn’t an easy aircraft to find routes that make economic sense, and it’s not a lack of passengers that’s the problem. It’s an arcane rule with pilot and cabin crew unions that make costs rise substantially – namely that aircraft over 76 seats have to be treated as though crew were flying A320/737 or larger, and get paid accordingly. It’s that that makes them unviable.

JetBlue operate 60 of the aircraft, and the argument goes that they either drop to the more popular ERJ-175 with up to 75 seats and lower pilot and crew costs, or put enough seats on the routes affected and cut frequencies.

They could either buy more A319/20 or maybe go for the CS100? The later offers outstanding economies that would overcome the pilot cost, and have enough seats, without going too high to cut too many frequencies. If it’s good enough for Delta who chose it for that very reason, it may well encourage JetBlue.

If JetBlue went down that path it would be a bad day for Embraer and the E2 programme; no North American business would be a damaging blow to the project and future sales.