Austral E190, LV-CMB (c/n 448), turns off Buenos Aires Aeroparque's runway 31 after landing at the airport on 17Mar16. (Phil Perry Photo)
Following up on two posts in late August regarding Aerolineas Argentinas / Austral's plans to possibly replace Austral's 26-strong Embraer 190 fleet, it is now being reported that the airline is looking to sell 20 of the 24 company-owned E190's while keeping the remaining four owned aircraft plus the two leased planes for "thinner" less-traveled routes to smaller cities. The airline would acquire 20 new aircraft to replace the 20 departing E190's on a like-for-like basis with no net fleet reduction for its shorter-range routes.
However, keeping only six E190's might be an expensive proposition that would more than offset the operational savings from flying an aircraft that is correctly-sized for the routes that it would fly. It might be better to dispose of the entire E190 fleet and acquire more of the larger-than-necessary 737-800's, 737 MAX 8's (or whichever aircraft is chosen to replace the 20 E190's) to also serve the "thinner" routes, thereby gaining the economic efficiencies of operating a single type on short-range routes.
According to the May 2016 issue of Airways magazine, Oman Air came to this same conclusion when it kept four of its E190's for less-traveled routes but found that the overhead costs of training crews and maintaining a spares supply for such a small fleet were prohibitive even though the aircraft was ideal for many of its destinations. The planes were put up for sale in June 2016.
The aircraft types reportedly being considered to replace the E190's are the Embraer E195-E2 (new generation of this series that can carry up to 140 passengers in single-class configuration), the Airbus A320neo and the 737 MAX series, which Aerolineas Argentinas will already start taking delivery of later this year.
Expanding upon the reasons already given in previous posts for replacing the E190's with larger jets, Aerolineas Argentinas / Austral's passenger numbers are higher than ever with load factors on the increase plus many Argentine airports have limited infrastructure (such as ramp space) limiting their ability to take on more aircraft but they can accommodate larger aircraft.
The decision on the future of Austral's E190 fleet will likely be made in the coming months.
Two previous posts on this subject in late August contain further background and details:
"Aerolineas Argentinas to reduce or dispose of Austral's E190 fleet ? - Part 1 - Rationales"
"Aerolineas Argentinas to reduce or dispose of Austral's E190 fleet ? - Part 2 - Bad Idea ?"
Airways magazine, May 2016 issue