Embraer has postponed service entry of its new E175-E2 regional jet by approximately one year. Originally targeted for 2020, the E175-E2 is now scheduled to enter service in 2021. The company said that, in part, the postponement is due to the inability of major airlines in the U.S. to negotiate a relaxation of scope clauses in pilot contracts.
The U.S. is expected to be a key market for the E175-E2. However, under current scope clause restrictions, the E175-E2 (and Mitsubishi’s similarly sized MRJ90) cannot be operated by regional airlines flying under contract to the three major U.S. carriers (American, Delta, and United).
With a minor exception for a few pre-existing 86-seaters flown by American Airlines partners, scope clauses at all three U.S. mainline carriers prohibit their regional partners from operating any aircraft that seat more than 76 passengers or have a maximum takeoff weight exceeding 86,000 pounds. While the E175-E2 can be configured and operated with a 76-seat layout, it does have a maximum takeoff weight of 98,767 pounds, thus placing it beyond current scope clause limitations.
Scope clauses exist in pilot contracts at major airlines as a way to protect the jobs and salaries of pilots at these carriers, who are generally paid more than pilots at regional airlines. Scope clause restrictions on aircraft size have tended to liberalize over time, however, as economic and financial pressures have generally resulted in concessions on the issue by pilot unions. There was a time when even 50-seat jets were prohibited by scope clauses.
Nevertheless, the most recently concluded round of pilot contract negotiations failed to result in any movement on the scope clause issue. At all three major carriers, the 76-seat and 86,000-pound limits remained in place. United’s pilot contract does not become amendable until January 2019, and represents the first available opportunity for scope clause relaxation. Pilot contracts at American and Delta do not become amendable until 2020.
Even without further scope clause liberalization, the market for regional jetliners the size of the E175-E2 is hardly moribund. Aircraft of this size will still be acquired in quantity by regional airlines unencumbered by strict scope clauses, low-fare carriers, and even major airlines themselves.
In the meantime, Embraer continues to market and produce the original Embraer 175, which continues to generate demand, including in North America. When configured with 76 seats, the 175 is fully compliant with current U.S. scope clauses. The E175-E2 is a re-engined and re-winged version of the 175.
The program schedules for the related E190-E2 and E195-E2 variants are unchanged. The 97-106 passenger E190-E2 is slated to enter service in 2018, while the 120-132 passenger E195-E2 is scheduled to follow in 2019.
To date, Embraer has accumulated 272 firm orders for the E2 series, including 100 E175-E2s, 82 E190-E2s, and 90 E195-E2s. Embraer also has some 398 other types of commitments (including options, purchase rights, and letters of intent) for E2 aircraft.
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