In the first order, JAL and Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation signed an LOI for 32 Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) aircraft, as the next-generation regional jet for the JAL Group. Although the presser does not state the model ordered, our understanding is the MRJ90 is favored. That said, the aircraft are due in 2021 and will be operated by J-Air. So there is no pressure on model selection yet. The MRJ is expected to enter service in 2017. The launch customer for the MRJ is JAL’s arch rival, ANA.
Also announced today was a firm order with Embraer for a total of 15 E-Jets comprising the E170 and the E190 models, as well as an additional twelve E-Jets family options. These are also to be operated by J-Air. This order adds to the existing 15 E170s that J-Air currently operates. New deliveries are scheduled from 2015.
These orders appear to be some sort of conflict, as they are competing aircraft. J-Air is happy with their E-Jets. “We have been operating our E-Jets for five years and the aircraft have achieved an outstanding 99.7% dispatch reliability. They are efficient and have displayed exceptional performance,” said Yoshiharu Ueki, Representative Director, President of Japan Airlines. “Having the combination of E170s and E190s in our fleet will give us greater flexibility, enabling us to match capacity with demand on routes within our existing and future networks. Our passengers have been impressed with the space and comfort on board our E170. They value the fact that there is no middle seat.” Ignoring the middle seat comment, on an operational level the Embraer‘s have effectively done what they are required to do. The orders are for the Enhanced model, based on the released image. Embraer will considerably upgrade the aircraft’s capabilities with the E2.
So while updating the E-Jet fleet makes sense, the switch to MRJ is noteworthy. Moving from E-Jet to the Enhanced and then E2 would seem like a logical progression given satisfaction with Embraer. Perhaps JAL was pressured to “buy local”?
The new E-Jet order provides J-Air with a fleet of 30. Perhaps JAL plans to retire its E-Jet fleet as the MRJs enter service on a near one for one basis. The latest E-Jet order options could be there in case the MRJs are delayed again or traffic growth require lift. Note the MRJ order is an LOI. The options are a reasonable hedge. We are waiting for some input from the airline and will update this note when we get their response to our questions.