Wed, Jul 12, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Mandarin Airlines leases new Embraer jets

YOUNG AND HANDSOME The new jets will bring the company's average fleet age down to around one year, making the fleet the youngest in the nation

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Harris Wang, right, president of Mandarin Airlines, shakes hands with Frederico Fleury Curado, executive airline market vice-president of Brazil-based Embraer SA, during a lease-signing ceremony in Taipei yesterday. Mandarin will lease three Embraer 190s and five Embraer 195s, which will help make the airline's fleet the youngest in the nation.

PHOTO: AFP

Mandarin Airlines (華信航空), a subsidiary of China Airlines Ltd (中華航空), yesterday formally announced the future introduction of new aircraft made by Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer SA to its core fleet.

The company yesterday signed a letter of intent with GE Commercial Aviation Services (GECAS), in which the airline agreed to lease three Embraer 190 and five Embraer 195 aircraft from GECAS.

The new aircraft will be delivered between April and July next year, and each unit will be leased for eight years, the company said.

"We are very satisfied with the new planes ? with the new fleet, we can strengthen our safety, service and competitiveness in the short-haul intra-regional markets throughout Asia," Michael Lo (樂大信), chairman of Mandarin Airlines, said at the signing ceremony.

The new fleet will gradually replace Mandarin Airlines' five Fokker 50s, which are due to be retired next year, as well as six Fokker 100s, which will be mothballed in 2009, executive vice president Richard Liu (劉師昌) said on the sidelines of the singing ceremony.

Mandarin Airlines also signed an agreement with GE Aviation yesterday for the maintenance and overhaul of the CF34-10E engines that power the eight Embraer planes.

Liu refused to reveal the value of the deals.

Due to Mandarin Airlines' financial structure, the company decided to lease the planes despite the fact that the total leasing cost is slightly higher than purchasing the planes, he said.

Mandarin Airlines will have the youngest fleet in the nation after the aircraft upgrade.

The airline currently owns three Boeing 737-800s with an average age of 5.13 years. Combined with the new Embraer aircraft, the average age is expected to drop to around one year, a public relations official said.

The Embraer 190 and Embraer 195 aircraft are dubbed next-generation regional jets by Embraer, the world's fourth-largest commercial jet maker.

Both models will be outfitted in a single-class configuration consisting of 104 seats for the Embraer 190 and 116 seats for the Embraer 195.

The new aircraft will be used by Mandarin Airlines to fly both domestic and international routes, Lo said.

According to the company's estimate, the planes can reach as far as Singapore in the south and Sakhalin in Russia in the north.

As business in domestic flights will decline following the launch of the high-speed railway in October, four smaller airlines in Taiwan have been seeking to open more international routes.

Currently, Mandarin Airlines operates short-haul international flights to Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Myanmar and the Philippines.

The new aircraft are also well suited to fly direct cross-strait flights if the aviation ban is lifted.

Mandarin Airlines plans to operate flights to secondary cities in China to avoid competition with larger airlines on the main routes such as Shanghai and Beijing, Lo said.

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