Narrowbody Market: Will It Be Embraer vs Boeing and Airbus?

A group of Embraer E-Jets at dusk.
Photo Credit: Embraer

Embraer, the Brazilian aerospace giant, has long been a major player in the regional jet and business jet market.

But recent whispers suggest they might be setting their sights on a bigger prize: the narrowbody jet market currently ruled by Boeing and Airbus.

Embraer’s Current Niche

Embraer’s bread and butter line is smaller commuter aircraft designed for shorter routes and regional travel. Their mainstay under-150 seat market representation is the E-Jet family, which comfortably seats between 66 and 124 passengers.

This makes them ideal fit for connecting smaller cities or feeding passengers into major hubs. Over the years, the Brazilian manufacturer has arisen to a point where it now supports this aviation sector par excellence.

Embraer this week celebrated the delivery of the 1800th aircraft from its E-Jet programme which was originally established in 2004. This highlights the general market acceptance and trust placed in Embraer’s key commercial line.

Their market focus has earned them a loyal following worldwide among airlines looking for fuel-efficient solutions for their regional routes. E-Jets currently have a presence in over 90 airlines and leasing companies, operating in more than 60 countries.

A Royal Jordanian Airlines Embraer E190-E2 jet.
Photo Credit: Embraer

Eyes on the Narrowbody Market?

Industry reports indicate that Embraer might be looking to expand their horizons. The Wall Street Journal originally reported that the Brazilian aerospace giant was considering the possible development of a narrowbody aircraft.

Internal studies suggest they certainly have the potential to develop a next-generation narrowbody jet, capable of competing directly with Boeing and Airbus in the lucrative short-haul and medium-haul market.

A Boeing 737 MAX-10 in flight
Photo Credit: Boeing

But simply possessing the development potential is no guarantee that the manufacturer would want to take the step into the market sector.

A move towards competing with the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 lines would mean massive multi-billion-dollar upfront launch costs.

Granted, Embraer would bring a reputation and a pedigree to a new market entrant which perhaps the likes of the Chinese manufactured COMAC C919 does not possess.

Nevertheless, this is no guarantee of success in competing with the established aircraft duopoly, even for a seasoned market player like Embraer.

Official Response: ‘No plans at this time’

Embraer has previously been tight-lipped about any specific plans to challenge Boeing, especially considering the American giant’s recent struggles.

According to Reuters, an Embraer spokesman somewhat put to rest the question of the potential narrowbody market disruptor.

“Embraer certainly has the capability to develop a new narrowbody aircraft. However, we have a young and very successful portfolio of products developed in recent years. We are really focused on selling those products and making Embraer bigger and stronger.”

“We don’t have any plan for a sizeable cycle of capex at this time,” the spokesperson concluded.

Perhaps the qualification “at this time” points to some future interest by the Brazilian manufacturer. This ambiguity may perhaps keep the industry on its toes, as Embraer’s entry could potentially disrupt the current Boeing-Airbus duopoly.

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A Shakeup on the Horizon?

The 150 seat narrowbody market has certainly been in the spotlight in recent months, and not all for the best reasons.

All eyes have recently been on Boeing as it wades through quality and safety issues with its 737 MAX production line.

At the same time the Chinese home-grown narrowbody, the COMAC C919 has seen headway in the Asian market. A recent 100 plane purchase by China Airlines has strengthened COMAC’s positioning as a new market disruptor.

If Embraer ever did decide to forge ahead with a new narrowbody aircraft, it could be a game-changer for the aviation industry.

But the likelihood of any sort of formal move into the 150-seat market by Embraer will not be happening any time soon.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 5 Min Read
5 Min Read
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