During its earnings call this week, Alaska’s CFO spoke of interest in 30 regional jets with 76 seats.  These are to be deployed by Horizon Air as it returns 15 Bombardier Q400s on lease.   Horizon has long been a Bombardier customer.  Indeed, even as the airline returns some Q400s, its fleet of the aircraft are expected to grow.  Horizon is a key Bombardier customer.

But the comment from the CFO about 76 seats sends a message.  This picture is the message.2016-01-22_8-07-29The Embraer E-175 has been a hit with its US-based customers.  Airlines appreciate its efficiency. But passengers love the cabin – big windows and a layout that feels much larger than the typical regional jet.

Nobody is saying the deal with definitely with Embraer.  But deploying the E-175 will ensure commonality with the SkyWest fleet (pictured) and the mainline.   Alaska is clearly planning to grow its route network – as it must with Delta eating away at the Pacific Northwest traffic.  Replacing Q400s means looking beyond typical turboprop ranges.  A regional jet decision speaks to growth.

Embraer doesn’t have the deal yet.  Bombardier’s CRJ900 is the only other option.  Not naming an OEM leader will ensure tight pricing.  Both OEMs will fight hard for this deal.   Embraer is not the obvious winner.  But it looks like a very steep hill for Bombardier.


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