British Airways subsidiary CityFlyer will not be bringing back the smaller of its Embraer jets, the ERJ-170, and will become an all-ERJ-190 airline. Some of the six ERJ-170s have been parked since the onset of the COVID pandemic, but none will be retired from service. Rather, they will be taking a long hop across the pond to begin life flying for Envoy Air under the American Eagle brand.
CityFlyer becomes all ERJ-190
British Airways’ CityFlyer subsidiary has been an airline of Embraers for some years now. Since the retirement of its last Saab 2000 in 2018, it has flown only ERJs, mainly the ERJ-190. Going into 2020, the airline flew 22 ERJ-190 alongside six smaller ERJ-170 aircraft, operating regional hops from London City Airport to destinations in the UK and Europe.
With the onset of travel restrictions brought about by the pandemic, even regional flying has been brought to a standstill. Today, most of the ERJ-190s are parked up at Norwich (NWI), with only four in active service.
The ERJ-170s fared even worse. As of December 2020, all but one were listed as ‘withdrawn from use.’ Just one – G-LCYI – remained active, but that too was taken out of operation on January 17th. This has made BA CityFlyer a single-type airline, operating only the ERJ-190s going forward.
But what of the ERJ-170? Were these regional jets destined for the scrap heap? At just 11 years of age, that would have been a travesty. Thankfully, they appear to have found a new home.
From the UK to the USA
Data from Planespotters.net indicates where these jets will end up, and it’s a long way from home. The six aircraft are destined for Envoy Air to be flown under the American Eagle brand.
Envoy is a major operator of the ERJ; in fact, its entire fleet is made up of Embraer jets. Alongside 66 ERJ-135 and -145, the airline flies a huge fleet of ERJ-175s around the US. All fly for the American Eagle brand. So what does a major US regional want with six used ERJ-170s from British Airways?
The answer lies in something known as the scope clause. The scope clause agreed with American Airlines and its pilots limits the number of aircraft that can be flown under the American Eagle brand to 75% of the total number of narrowbodies operated by the mainline unit. Specifically, large regional jets seating between 66 and 76 passengers are limited to 40% of the number of narrowbodies, while the remaining 35% can be made up of smaller aircraft.
The BA CityFlyer ERJ-170s will be reconfigured to just 65 seats in order to fall into the ‘smaller aircraft’ category. When BA flew them, they seated 76. Envoy’s ERJ-145s seat 50. It seems the airline has seen an opportunity to hit a sweet spot with the ERJ-170, maximizing passengers while still staying within the scope clause limits.
Another benefit for the airline is that it will be able to begin flying these jets with no additional training or adjustments to systems. An email shared with Simple Flying was issued by Envoy’s Vice President of Flight, Ric Wilson, which read:
“As announced earlier today, Envoy will soon take delivery of at least six Embraer 170 (E170) aircraft in a 65 seat configuration. We anticipate deliveries will begin in late May of this year, with our first in service date scheduled for early July. The Flight Operations Technical team has already begun work on the required Operating Manual revisions to support the addition of these aircraft.
“E-Jet (E170/175) schedules will be pooled similarly to how the E140/145 are scheduled today. As with any common Type Rating, only minor differences exist between the aircraft series and thus we do not anticipate any simulator training requirements.”
For Envoy, the ERJ-170s are a great choice, allowing maximum passengers in the aircraft cabin. It’s likely the 11 additional seats will need to be removed entirely from the cabin to maintain scope clause compliance. Whether the carrier will take the opportunity to give other passengers more legroom with a complete overhaul, or just flies with a big space in the cabin, remains to be seen.