Flybe today confirmed that its fleet will be cut to around 70 aircraft by early 2020 following a comprehensive review of regional aircraft options.
The overall fleet “is well on the way” to reducing in size from 85 at its peak in May 2017.
Flybe handed back six older end-of-lease Bombardier Q400 turboprops in the past 12 months and plans to return all nine Embraer 195 jets,
Trimming of the fleet is part of a strategy to concentrate on profitable routes only.
The regional carrier is to utilise the Q400 as the backbone of the fleet but will continue to operate a number of Embraer E175 jets for longer or busier routes.
Four Embraer E175s due for delivery in 2019 will be delivered with new ‘winglet technology’ to help reduce fuel consumption.
“Apart from these, Flybe is not planning any additional new aircraft orders for the foreseeable future,” the airline said.
The Q400 is faster than the alternative turboprops, with a performance close to jet aircraft over the relatively short sectors that Flybe operates.
The aircraft is also cheaper to operate than similar-sized jet aircraft, and has a much smaller noise footprint.
“Flybe’s Q400 fleet remains a relatively young one, with an average age of just over ten years,” the airline said.
“The airline has accordingly concluded that it will retain its remaining Q400 aircraft and, where economic, extend their service lives.
“This will save considerable capital expenditure over the next few years, by avoiding the requirement to acquire new aircraft.”
Chief executive Christine Ourmières-Widener said: “Flybe’s strategy is to reduce the fleet size to an optimum level and make the business demand-driven rather than capacity-led.
“Our fleet configuration is an important part of that strategy. We examined exhaustively all the options and concluded the Bombardier Q400 is the best core aircraft for us.
“Its superior economy, speed and quietness is ideal for a regional airline such as ourselves.
“Together with a number of Embraer E175s, our future fleet will be the optimum required for our specific regional route network.”
Bombardier Commercial Aircraft president Fred Cromer added: “We are delighted that Flybe, our long-term customer and largest Q400 operator, remains committed to the Q400 as its preferred turboprop.
“With its jet-like performance, industry-leading reliability and unbeatable economics, we are glad that the Q400 turboprop will continue to support Flybe as the airline further imposes itself as one of Europe’s leading regional providers.”
John Slattery, president and chief executive of Embraer Commercial Aviation, said: “Flybe’s commitment to the E175 as its regional jet of choice is a great endorsement of the type as a key part of its wider fleet.
“Now, introducing in its fleet the most updated version of the E175 with lower fuel burn, Flybe will enjoy even greater operating economics on their jet-service routes.”