The delivery of its 900th plane was a milestone for Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer and it marked the occasion with pomp at the Kenya Airways hangar two weeks ago.
The plane, an E-190, was designated to Kenya Airways (KQ) as Embraer’s way of celebrating their biggest client in Africa.
Standing on the podium with one of the planes as the back drop, Embraer’s Commercial Aviation President and Chief Executive Paulo Cesar Silva toasted to a partnership with KQ and talked about the company’s plans to expand in the region.
Kenya Airways was the first airline to fly the E series jets in the region. Today, the airline has 14 such aircraft in its fleet and hopes to increase the number to 33 as part of its 10-year strategic plan.
The Business Daily interviewed Mr Silva on the company’s strategy, the challenges and opportunities and the future of aviation in Africa.
Why the big push to grow in Africa?
Years ago, we identified Africa as being extremely relevant to our operations and growth. We defined a strategy — that we should have a larger presence here, invest more and get more clients.
We started implementing our strategy about six years ago and now we have 80 commercial jets — 50 E jets and 30 ERJ’s, which are smaller jets with 37 to 50 seats — operating in the region.
We see Africa as a continent with huge potential for further business going forward and we want to be part of the air traffic development here.
What is informing your strategy in the region?
We clearly see our products as a good fit for flying in Africa, where majority of the routes — about 70 per cent — are more suitable for aircraft of up to 100 seats.
So airlines using narrow bodies for this markets could be more efficient by using our jets. We see a huge potential.
What investments are you making in the region to support your growth and clients?
We are very bullish in Africa. We are now placing people here. Also, (we are) investing in warehouse facilities for spare parts.
More people are being dedicated to serve our customers here and investing to help open authorised service centres in the region, like the one we are looking to open in Nairobi.
READ: Brazil’s Embraer eyes African jet market with Kenya office
When will you open the service centre in Nairobi? What is the investment and how many people will you dedicate to it?
It will be an authorised centre, the first in the region. We will make necessary arrangement to open it early next year.
The number of people will depend on how much business the centre will get. But definitely, it’s going to grow as more and more Embraer jets are flying in Africa so its natural that the airlines will look for services.
Is this a partnership with Kenya Airways?
What is your relationship with Kenya Airways?
They are our biggest client in Africa. They are the ones who introduced the E jet concept in Africa and we are proud to work together. Kenya Airways have a clear and defined plan to grow and we will continue this partnership — be a part of their growth.
We see other narrow body manufacturers fighting for a share of the African aviation market. How is the competition?
Competition is everywhere and we take it as part of the business. We are the market leader in the segment, with 45 per cent of the market.
We have a huge after-sale support organisation and are investing a lot to continue our growth in Africa.
Globally, we have seen a decline in the demand for jets due to the economic situation. How has this affected Embraer?
We are seeing a soft global market, Europe is struggling to bring back their economies. US is flat, but in a low level. So of course our clients — airlines — are now more cautious to make investments. We are seeing a more soft market in general. Our growth is in the emerging markets right now.
Why is this 900th jet so big for Embraer?
It’s remarkable for an aircraft manufacturer to deliver a lot of aircraft. Its not many companies that have achieved this mark.
So every time we deliver a group of 100 aircraft, we pay a tribute to one of our most important customers.
So the 900th was dedicated to KQ as they are one of our important customers.