"Pilots take no special joy in walking. Pilots like flying." - Neil Armstrong
E195E2 or A220 - What would the new Croatia Airlines fleet look like?
Written by: Ivo Gračanin, Bruno Habus.
In accordance with the recommendations of an external consultant, and the fact that the current fleet of Croatia Airlines (hereinafter: CTN) is already a bit outdated, the national airline is looking for a new fleet. Thus, the world's largest players in aircraft production have heard about their interest in the new fleet: the European consortium Airbus and the Brazilian Embraer. Although it is not news that Croatia Airlines is considering new aircraft, it is a bit surprising that the concept of the future fleet is changing. Namely, Croatia Airlines' previous order to Airbus was' difficult 'for 4 new Airbus A320neo, which would indicate that CTN continues the tradition of more aircraft models in the fleet - A320neo for longer flights, and an additional aircraft model for regional and less crowded flights. Interest in the A220 and the E2 family of aircraft indicates that Croatia Airlines is alluding to a unified fleet that would consist of one aircraft model, with a medium capacity in the range of 120-140 passengers.
However, in what condition is the current fleet of Croatia Airlines and does such a fleet meet modern and current requirements for air transport? The answer is yes and no. Croatia Airlines currently has 5 Airbus A319, 2 Airbus A320 and 6 DeHavilland Canada DHC8-400 in its fleet. The jet fleet has the appropriate capacity and range for all routes in Croatia Airlines network, and the turboprop fleet meets the requirements of regional traffic. But for some flights the Airbus A319 or A320 is too big. This is where the first need of Croatia Airlines comes to the fore - Between the A319 and DHC8-400 there is too big a hole in capacity. Namely, the A319 has a capacity of 144 seats (one aircraft has 150 seats), while the DHC8-400 has 76 seats. That is, CTN lacks a jet aircraft with 100-120 seats, exactly as presented by Embraer and Airbus.
Croatia Airlines (CTN) currently has a total of 1530 seats in the fleet, of which 456 seats come in the DHC8-400 fleet, 726 seats in the A319 fleet and 348 seats in the A320.
Airbus aircraft are configured in an ‘all economy’ configuration, with movable curtains, the so-called ‘Class dividers’ to separate economy from business class. The first 8 rows have an increased distance between the seats because they are designed for business class, although on most flights the first 3 rows of seats are assembled in a business class configuration, ie with a locked middle seat. The DHC8-400 aircraft are also configured in an ‘all economy’ configuration, with a total of 76 seats. As is the case with the Airbus fleet, the DHC8-400 also has auxiliary ‘class dividers’. The entire CTN fleet is designed for the ‘full service’ of the airline, which includes large galleys, cabinets for passengers and crew, a number of toilets and so on.
The current fleet is 16.5 years old, which is not strange or old for commercial passenger aircraft, but this significantly burdens companies with a small number of aircraft in the fleet due to the fact that older aircraft spend more time in the hangar.
Taking everything into account, let's look at what a possible fleet composed of one type of aircraft would look like - A220 or E195E2. It is assumed that Croatia Airlines wants to keep a similar number of available seats in the fleet (1530) and a random number of aircraft (13).
If we consider the configuration available to AirBaltic (whose A220 is presented in Zagreb), which the passenger cabin is configured in a way and seeing a similar philosophy as CTN, we consider the A220-300 with a configuration of 145 seats, and A220-100 (as on example in the fleet has Swiss), with 125 seats. With a simple calculation and an assumed fleet of 13 aircraft (for example 9 A220-300 and 4 A220-100), we come to a fleet with a total of 1805 seats available. With such a presumed fleet, CTN would have larger aircraft for longer routes and those with more passengers, but also 4 smaller aircraft for regional flights, for which the A319 is now, for example, too large and the DHC8-400 too small.
If we take into consideration the Embraer E195E2, with the configuration of Helvetic Airways (which presented its E2 in Zagreb) of 134 seats, with the assumed fleet of 13 aircraft we come to a total capacity of 1742 seats (only 43 less than the combination of A220-100 and -300).
If we compare the catalog prices of aircraft, a fleet of 13 E195E2 would cost 785.2 million USD (unit catalog price of 60.4 million USD), and a fleet of combined 12 A220-100 and -300 as much as 1 billion 147.5 million USD (with catalog price A220-100 of $ 81 million and A220-300 of $ 91.5 million *). That is, the Airbus fleet of almost the same capacity would cost almost twice as much as the Embraer. Of course, prices are negotiated, and it is possible that after the negotiations Airbus will be cheaper than Embraer (or vice versa). Of course, it should be noted that CTN will most likely not purchase the aircraft, but instead choose 'leasing', ie the model according to which the leasing company buys aircraft on behalf of CTN, rents them to CTN, which then pays a flight fee (according to flight hours, or to the monthly model, etc.).
* List prices from 2018.
In the case of the realization of fleet renewal with any aircraft, it should be noted that a unified fleet would certainly bring better results to CTN. Consider flights for which the current A319 is too big and the DHC8-400 too small. This is where the A220 or E195E2 come into play, which would bring a higher load factor for the same number of passengers as in the A319 or DHC8-400, ie a flight per seat would be more cost-effective for the company. In addition, it should not be forgotten that both the A220 and E195E2 are next-generation aircraft, with engines that burn significantly less fuel per passenger compared to the current CTN fleet.
CTN has a lot of homework to do before deciding to buy new aircraft. There are several main questions about where CTN wants to go, how it sees itself and its business in the future. Does it want to be a regional carrier connecting Croatian cities with the main hubs of Europe, and at the same time, be a service for airlines from around the world, have a hub in Zagreb, and offer passenger transport to Croatia and surrounding countries? Or as another option to completely reject the hub in Zagreb and stick to the so-called Point to Point system where it will be closer to the way low-cost carriers operate. It is necessary to take into account seasonality, the need for less capacity in winter and more in summer. There are many options, it is necessary to decide very wisely how the new fleet will help preserve Croatia and improve business and meet the needs of the market throughout the year.
Depending on this decision on future business, a decision is made whether the fleet will be unified or it will have several different aircraft models in the fleet.
With a unified fleet, there is only one version of the aircraft in the fleet. This simplifies business, for example when planning work for pilots and cabin crew, it is not necessary to pay attention to which type of aircraft flies on a particular flight, there is no need for more groups of pilots flying on individual aircraft models because all flights fly the same version. When selling, everything is also simplified, because the same capacity is always offered, and there is no need to change aircraft when there is less demand from, for example, Airbus A319 to DHC8-400. This is also a disadvantage because the capacity does not adjust to demand. In that case, sales and marketing must take care of how to fill all the capacity. If, for example, Croatia decides to unify the fleet like airBaltic, it means that it will have to fly Zagreb - Zadar - Pula with Airbus A220-300, which is a big jump from DHC8-400 and its 76 seats to 145 seats in A220. There will be no problem with aircraft occupancy during the season, but the question is what in the off-season. Will an oversized aircraft then generate large losses on each flight. Also on routes to other destinations.
In the fleet with the same model, but different versions, the airline adjusts the capacity to the needs of each route, for example in the fleet consisting of Embraer E175-E2 and E195-E2 with a capacity of 90 and 130 seats. When there is a higher demand on a route, the airline sends a larger version with 130 seats, and when there is less demand, there is a 90-seat aircraft. The advantage is also that pilots can operate both versions of the aircraft without additional training.
What is an additional aggravating circumstance for Croatia Airlines, or what they will miss in the event that the A320 family is expelled from the fleet, is the cargo area, which is often full on flights to major European hubs. Both the A220 and E2 have significantly less available cargo space compared to the current capacities in the A319 and A320.
Number of available LD pallet spaces
In addition to potential shortcomings in the cargo space of the aircraft, A220 and E195-E2 have a problem when landing on the shortest runway in the network of destinations of Croatia Airlines - landing at Brac Airport. In addition to the fact that the runway is relatively short for commercial air traffic (1,760 m), the problem is that Brač Airport is the highest in Croatia, at 534 meters above sea level, which prolongs the declared lengths for takeoff and landing. The following is a brief analysis of which aircraft and under what conditions could land on ZL Brač.
TORA - Takeoff run avalible - declared runway length available for ‘ground run’ aircraft
TODA - Takeoff distance avalible - TORA + length of remaining runway or clearway after TORA completion
LDA - Landing distance avalible - total runway length available for grund run of landing aircraft
Takeoff field length - with maximum take-off mass, in conditions of the standard atmosphere, at 0 m above sea level - 1,970 m (bearing in mind that this length is provided on a dry runway, in ideal weather conditions and at sea level, and Brac Airport is at an altitude of 543 m above sea level).
Takeoff field length - with take-off mass suitable for a 500 nautical mile range, with aircraft filled and maximum baggage, in a standard atmosphere and sea level - 1,520 m (due to higher altitude and in conditions of rain, ice or snow contaminated runway, the length will be higher)
Landing field length - with maximum landing mass, in the conditions of the standard atmosphere at sea level - 1,420 m (length can be longer in wet runway conditions and due to higher altitude).
Takeoff field lenght - with maximum take-off mass, in conditions of standard atmosphere, at 0 m above sea level - 1,463 m (bearing in mind that this length is provided on a dry runway, in ideal weather conditions and at sea level, and Brac airport is at an altitude of 543 m above sea level).
Landing field lenght - with maximum landing mass, in conditions of standard atnosphere at sea level - 1,387 m (length can be longer in wet runway conditions and due to higher altitude)
Takeoff field lenght - with maximum take-off mass, in conditions of standard atmosphere, at 0 m above sea level - 1,890 m (bearing in mind that this length is provided on a dry runway, in ideal weather conditions and at sea level, and Brac airport is at an altitude of 543 m above sea level).
Landing field lenght - with maximum landing mass, in conditions of standard atnosphere at sea level - 1,509 m (length can be longer in wet runway conditions and due to higher altitude)
NOTE: Detailed documentation of the aircraft and its performance, which is not available to the public, is required for an accurate calculation.
It is necessary to do a detailed analysis and see which option is better for CTN. Definitely try to simplify the fleet as much as possible, and think about a lot of factors like seasonality, demand, the type of flights that are meant to be performed, because all of this affects the determination of the approximately ideal fleet. Once the fleet is decided and procurement begins, there are no longer many options for return and error correction, aircraft are purchased for the next many (usually 20+) years. Just for example, many large airlines in Europe tend to have higher capacity aircraft, such as the Austrian Embraer E190, which has the smallest 120-seat aircraft, and expel lower capacity aircraft from the fleet.