SkyWest Airlines Orders 20 Embraer E175 Jets

Regional airline operator SkyWest has ordered 20 Embraer E175-E1 jets worth almost $1 billion. SkyWest will operate the new aircraft on behalf of American Airlines’ regional brand American Eagle. Deliveries are due to begin later this year.

Embraer E175-E1 aircraft
SkyWest has ordered 20 Embraer E75-E1 aircraft. Photo: Embraer

The deal

Despite Embraer having issues with orders for the new E175-E2, orders are still coming in strong for the E175-E1. The latest order comes from SkyWest who already operates 156 E175s, although this will be the first time they operate them for American Eagle.

The new aircraft will be configured with 76 seats and delivery will start in the second half of the year. The airline already operates similar aircraft for Alaska Airlines, United Express and Delta Connection. SkyWest only operates under the names of other airlines but has one of the largest fleets in the world at almost 500 aircraft.

SkyWest Airlines Orders 20 Embraer E175 Jets
Skywest flies for other airlines, but has one of the world’s largest fleets. Photo: Skywest

The deal between SkyWest and Embraer is valued at $972 million and has already been included in Embraer’s 2019 backlog. SkyWest initially ordered 100 Embraer aircraft way back in 2013 but has not been allowed to fly the plane due to restrictions from pilot unions regarding the size of the aircraft.

Restrictions on the E2

It is due to the restrictions from US pilots’ unions which means Embraer is yet to deliver any E175-E2 aircraft. SkyWest has 100 of the next-generation E2 aircraft on order, worth around $9.4 billion. The airline has said this new order of E1 aircraft does not affect the original order and that it still hopes to receive the planes if an agreement can be made with the unions.

The problem with the unions is that although the new E2 jet is almost the same as the E1, most of the major airlines have contracts saying that regional pilots can’t fly them. Regional pilots are often paid less, so the big airlines aren’t allowed to rely on the smaller jets which take jobs away from the pilots who fly the large aircraft for more money.

Embraer E175-E2
The Embraer E175-E2 is slightly heavier than the E1 which means it is restricted by union contracts. Photo: Embraer

Scope clause

While this gives the pilots a decent bargaining chip, it means that the new, more fuel-efficient, quieter E2 planes are not be utilized. The E2 is a slightly heavier plane which means that regional pilots cannot fly it. Most union contracts state that the take-off weight of the E2 is almost 13,000lb heavier than is generally permitted for regional pilots.

While Embraer is confident that they will find a way around the issue, saying that measuring regional aircraft by weight is old-fashioned, the unions don’t seem to want to budge. So, Embraer is looking to sell the new E175-E2 outside of American into the European markets. But this is tricky and regional jets have never done that well outside the American market.

Another hope for Embraer is that the joint venture with Boeing is completed. With the force of Boeing behind them, perhaps the manufacturer could get its E175-E2 off the ground and into the skies. But as yet, the performance of the E175-E2 has yet to persuade the unions to change their Scope clauses.

What do you think of the new E175-E2 jet? Will the unions change their position or are Embraer fighting a losing battle?