Back in February 2023, Scoot announced that it would be leasing nine Embraer E190-E2 jets, the first of which is scheduled to arrive in 2024.
This is a particularly exciting development for two reasons:
- a 2-2 layout means no more dreaded middle seat
- the smaller aircraft enables Scoot to return to type-restricted airports like Koh Samui, which the SIA Group was forced to abandon following the retirement of the Airbus A319
There’s still no word on when exactly Scoot will take delivery of its first E190, but if you’re keen to see what lies in store, I recently had a media tour of PR-ZIQ, an Embraer E195-E2 demonstrator aircraft (it’s slightly longer than the E190s that Scoot will receive but otherwise largely similar, at least where the passenger is concerned).
This model is nicknamed “Profit Hunter”, a name that’s slightly corny and very on the nose (they might as well have stencilled “Dear Airline Executives” above the windows). Yet the lack of subtlety is perfectly understandable when you realise how badly Embraer needs the E2 to sell.
The order book has been slow. To date, there’s only been 34 firm orders for the E190-E2, and even though the E195-E2 has fared better at 236, that’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the 740 orders for the first generation. More concerningly, it’s badly lagging behind the 800+ orders for its closest competitor, the Airbus A220 (which boasts greater range, though Embraer would tell you that its E2 jets offer 11% lower operating costs).
|✈️ Current E190/195-E2 Operators|
|Azul Brazilian Airlines||–||15|
|KLM City hopper||–||18|
That explains why Embraer’s been taking its demo aircraft on the road, trying to convince airlines that the E2 is key to cracking the sub-150 passenger market. To that end, it’s been showcasing the capabilities of the E2 series by sending them to airports with very short runways (London City), high altitudes (Kathmandu), extreme heat (Tashkent) or remote locations (Kiribati).
It’s also why I found myself at Seletar Airport instead of Singapore’s main gateway Changi- another apt choice given its rather unique constraints (more on that later).
We weren’t allowed to take any photos on the tarmac, so please make do with this one captured by Runway Girl Network during an event at Ft. Lauderdale International Airport in 2019.
PR-ZIQ is decked out in an eye-catching black and gold livery known as, I kid you not, “TechLion” (I’ll be calling my lawyers in the morning). Other demo jets feature apex predators such as a tiger, eagle, Great White shark and Chris Hansen (well, it would if they could secure his likeness).
I’m going to walk you through the interior of this aircraft, keeping in mind that it’s a demonstrator, and what Scoot ultimately puts in its cabins will be different (most notably the seats; the air vents, window shades, overhead storage, lavatories and galleys will be standardised).
Embraer E195-E2: Seats
This particular E195-E2 came in a two-cabin configuration, with 12 Business Class seats upfront and 112 Economy Class seats at the back (Scoot plans to install 112 seats on its aircraft; remember the E190 is five metres shorter).
Don’t get too excited though- it’s all but certain that Scoot will not be installing a Scoot Plus cabin on this aircraft. It simply wouldn’t make sense, given that these aircraft will be plying short haul, low-yield leisure destinations.
That said, the Business Class seats that Embraer showcased looked tasty, with 54″ of pitch and a staggered layout which gives each passenger aisle access, despite a 2-2 configuration. At least one airline (Nigerian carrier Air Peace) has decided to go with this, so it’s not just some tech demo which never witnesses a paying butt in seat.
There was no IFE system installed — a representative estimated they saved 2,000 kg by foregoing it in favour of streaming — but Business Class tray tables have a built-in stand to support a smartphone or smaller tablet.
Behind that was Economy Class, with seats pitched at 35, 34, 33, 32, 31, 30, 29.5 and 29 inches, to show potential customers different permutations.
Obviously, life is better up front in the roomier seats, where the expansive legroom only serves to remind you you’re on a demo aircraft.
For a healthy dose of reality, head to the rear, where seats are spaced with a DVT-inducing 29 inches of pitch. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that Scoot will fall on the lower end of this spectrum (it offers 28-29 inches of pitch on its A320neos, for instance).
For what it’s worth, the armrests can be raised, so a couple travelling together can eke out that much more space. Again, the lack of a middle seat is the true headline here, a boon for amorous couples and something you won’t find on any other aircraft in the SIA Group’s fleet.
I also appreciated the fact there was no divider beneath the two seats in front, providing more room to wriggle my legs, and more space to stow a backpack or handbag.
This aircraft featured in-seat power at all seats, with a 1:1 passenger to plug ratio. However, it’s doubtful whether Scoot will bother installing these (and even if they do, don’t count on them being free).
Above are air nozzles, a light and attendant call button.
Embraer E195-E2: Headroom and overhead storage
While the E195-E2’s ceiling is noticeably lower than on a widebody (2 metres versus 2.2+ metres in a Boeing 777), I didn’t have any issues standing up straight, nor did the noticeably taller Brazilian crew.
Overhead storage bins can take four IATA-standard cabin bags each, with a flip-down design to alleviate the physical toll that push-up bins can have on cabin crew.
Storage space is no contest for an A320, however, and I have my concerns about how this will fare on Scoot where checked baggage fees encourage passengers to carry on as much as they can. I suspect the ground crew will need to be much stricter with enforcing the size and weight limits on flights operated by this aircraft.
Embraer E195-E2: Lavatories
This aircraft had a total of three lavatories, one at the front, and two at the rear. All had button-operated flushes and taps, together with changing tables.
I suspect there’ll only be two on the Scoot’s E190-E2, however, given the configurations I’m seeing on Helvetic and KLM’s aircraft.
Embraer E195-E2: Galleys
Front and rear galleys ensure that Scoot passengers will be able to enjoy a hot meal on their flight (for a price, of course), with space for duty-free carts too.
Could the E2 jets help Seletar expand commercial aviation?
Seletar Airport currently operates as a general aviation facility, mainly for chartered flights, private jets and training. Only one commercial airliner operates regularly scheduled flights: Malaysian budget-carrier Firefly, with service to Kuala Lumpur’s Subang Airport (which cuts travel time to downtown KL to 30 minutes, compared to 60 minutes from KLIA).
Expanding commercial aviation at Seletar has always been a thorny issue- you may remember the row in 2018 over the use of the Instrument Landing System (ILS), which ended with Singapore agreeing to withdraw the system, in exchange for Malaysia’s indefinite suspension of its permanent Restricted Area over Pasir Gudang.
An Embraer representative explained that one of the main reasons why Seletar sees so little commercial aviation traffic is because of its location. The take-off path would have you over Johor in a matter of minutes, and concerns over noise pollution and height restriction have stifled growth (for a better idea of the restrictions facing pilots at Seletar, refer to this post).
However, the Embraer E2 family boasts compliance with ICAO’s Chapter 14, the strictest standard of noise stringency. For perspective, it’s seven decibels quieter than the previous Chapter 4 standard.
Embraer claims that the E2s generate the same noise as some turboprops, and are the quietest single-aisle jets available.
Among other single-aisle jets, the E2s are the quietest. Comparing certified cumulative noise levels at take-off, the E190-E2, for example, is 10 EPNdBs quieter than the A321. To the human ear, that equates to about 50% less perceived noise. When compared to the A220-100, the E195-E2 is 11% quieter. That may not seem like a big number, but that EPNdB reduction is a huge engineering achievement.
Quieter aircraft don’t just offer passengers a more pleasant ride, they’re also more fuel efficient. Moreover, airlines can save by flying quieter aircraft to airports which impose noise levies, such as London Heathrow (who even name and shame offenders).
So together with better climb performance, could the E2 jets help overcome some of the barriers facing further commercial aviation development at Seletar? It’s an intriguing question, though one suspects the root cause of the Singapore-Malaysia dispute might not be something that can be solved through technological enhancements alone, if you catch my drift.
Embraer’s next-generation E2 jets offer one of the quietest rides in the skies, which together with no middle seats will be good news for Scoot passengers (those who can squeeze themselves into a 29-inch seat at least).
It remains to be seen if this aircraft will allow SIA to make its long-anticipated Koh Samui return, but I’d say the outlook is positive.
We should be hearing more details about Scoot’s E190s in due course, so stay tuned.