Pionair Australia (PH, Bankstown) is planning to add a further three E190s in 2021 as it sees the aircraft as well-positioned for scheduled ACMI deals in Australia, its director (business development) has said.

"COVID has been a driving force, and purchase prices have come way down on the E190s. We still like our BAe 146s, but the expansion into E190s was a logical step into a different class of aircraft," Randal McFarlane told Smart Aviation APAC.

The Australian airline added its first Embraer aircraft for in-house operations in the second half of November 2020. Ex-Helvetic Airways ERJ 190-100LR HB-JVR (msn 19000435) was ferried from Basel/Mulhouse/Freiburg, CH via Belgrade, Dubai World Central, Chennai, Medan Kuala Namu, and Broome to Bankstown over the course of November 21-24, AirNav RadarBox ADS-B data shows. The 9.6-year-old regional jet will be re-registered as VH-SEF and, following maintenance, will be deployed on charter services.

In the future, Pionair sees an opportunity to deploy the other three E190s on scheduled ACMI contracts as well, although McFarlane would not disclose any customers. He underlined that with its performance and lower capacity, the E190 would be an ideal type to take over some of the routes previously operated with narrowbody jets but currently too thin to sustain such types.

Pionair also took delivery of an E190-E2 in February 2020. However, the aircraft is owned by Air Kiribati (IK, Tarawa) and will eventually operate for that airline, once travel restrictions are lifted between nations in Oceania. Pionair is also due to operate another E190-E2 for Air Kiribati, although the delivery timeline is uncertain due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

McFarlane underlined that Pionair has no ambitions to add narrowbody jets and would limit its growth to Embraer regional aircraft. However, it also does not plan to retire any of its eight active BAe Systems quadjets (two BAe 146-200s, two BAe 146-200(QC)s, two BAe 146-200(QT)s, and two BAe 146-300(QT)s). McFarlane said the aircraft, which operate both passenger and cargo flights, had another ten years or so of service life in them.