Despite the devastation of coronavirus pandemic to air travel globally, it has been predicted that Africa would record high growth post COVID-19.
This prediction was made by the Vice-President of Embraer, Marketing Strategy, Mr. Rodrigo Silva e Souza, who described Africa as an emerging market that would record very high growth in aviation in the coming years.
But he noted that the growth would redefine air travel in the continent, noting that there would be more of short distance air travel. This short distance travel would require new aircraft types primed for 50-70 seats, not the popular Boeing 737 that has over 140 plus passenger capacity.
"Africa is an emerging market. We at Embraer see a very high growth rate on the continent. We estimate the market to double in the next 20 years. The Embraer aircraft brand has several features.
"For instance, some of the routes on the continent require this brand of aircraft. There will be growth in demands and there will be more passengers. This is a good aircraft to go from 50 to above 100 seats, but also, some of the routes, which they deploy B737 may no lo longer be profitable again because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"B737 aircraft will be too big an aircraft for those routes. So, there is this thing that we call rightsizing, which is using the right aircraft for the right routes. We have seen that a lot of the routes previously flown by a large aircraft like B737, due to the present situation are likely not to be as profitable as before," Silva e Souza.
He said with the increased demand of Embraer aircraft in the African continent, that the company may establish more structures in the region in order to support the airlines in Africa.
"As we grow in presence on the continent of Africa, we may also need to extend our presence on the continent in terms of supports for our clients. Presently, we have maintenance facilities in South Africa. The demand for our aircraft in Africa is rising; we have about 200 of our aircraft flying the region.
"With rightsizing, it is likely that in the future we will invest in more structures to support our customers in the region.
Considering the fact Nigeria's major carrier, Air Peace is operating many Embraer aircraft, including the brand new ones being acquired; the Embraer Vive-President said it would support the airline providing facilities that would enable it maintain its fleet.
"What I can assure you is that during the evaluation, one of the key elements for Air Peace to select us is our ability to support the aircraft.
"Embraer's support for its customers worldwide is quite different from other aircraft manufacturers, like Bombardier for instance. We do not have a specific agreement on MRO with Air Peace, but for sure, we have things in place to support the airline and our other customers.
He described Embraer aircraft as smart, but acknowledged, however, the E145, 50-seater aircraft may not have large cargo compartment, but the E195-E2 acquired by Air Peace recently has large cargo space.
"I imagine this could be an issue in the E145, but on the E195-E2 brands, they have come with the best cargo compartment because the cargo compartment is below the floor in that case, while in the E145, it is behind the passenger cabin. As we expand the aircraft, the amount of space was also increasing.
"The cargo space available in this aircraft is a lot higher than any other in its category. It is a regional jet. We have space to carry cargo under the belly and also inside the cabin.
"So, the amount of bags you are able to carry inside the cabin compared to other generation for instance is 30 per cent more. That allows the crew more space inside the cabin, plus the additional cargo compartment," he said.
He advocated for the right use of equipment, noting that it would be the only way to guarantee them profitability after the COVID-19 pandemic.
"In some cases, what we saw before the pandemic was that the market was growing so fast and the airlines could use the right equipment in the wrong routes and still be profitable, but now, with the crisis, that is going to change.
"The number of passengers is going to drop significantly all over the world. Business organisations will have to optimise their business to be able to recover from this loss and get the best demands.
"To achieve this, is to right-size, it is to use the right aircraft to the right routes. My expectation is that many airlines will have to optimise their business and the best way to optimise is to right-size," Silva e Souza said.
He said Embraer has global market share of 29 per cent at the moment in the market segment it operates, which is regional jets.
"In this market, we have the biggest market share today. The second place is Bombardier, which I think it has about 16 per cent of the market share. The difference between the first and second place is significantly in favour of Embraer. We will continue to invest in our products and make sure it is still competitive," he added.