The decision by US Airways to potentially cut 25 Embraer E-190s from its fleet is a seemingly logical move by a carrier looking to trim capacity through the elimination of a small sub-fleet that also creates some efficiency gains in its fleet management.
But it’s interesting to take a brief look at just how those 100-seaters ended up in mainline flying in the first place.
As America West Airlines and US Airways were merging in late 2005 management of the merged entity sent RFPs to regional carriers Mesaba, Republic Airways Holdings, and Mesa Air Group to operate the 25 E-190s once the merger was complete.
But mainline pilots balked, and an element of the pilot transition deal brokered by the two pilots group stipulated the 100-seaters would be flown by mainline pilots.
US Airways management remained bullish on the E-190s, at one point explaining they were flown at “competitive” JetBlue pay rates.
You have to wonder if the E-190s would have remained operating under the US Airways banner if the carrier were allowed to stick to its original plan and place them at one of its regional partners. Mainline pilots were moving to protect jobs, but ultimately staff adjustments will need to be made once the fleet type is elminated.
Only top airline executives can say for sure who can operate 100-seat lift in the most economical manner, and as each airline’s cost structure differs, no definitive answer exists. But US Airways’ decision regarding the 100-seater is interesting as other US mainline carriers are looking gain some relief from scope constraints in their current negotiations.
Regardless US Airways should have no problems selling or subleasing the fleet as the E-190s are popular aircraft. One of its partners –Republic Airways Holdings–is looking to the used market to source E-190s for Midwest Airlines. Republic’s acquisition of Midwest is set to close in the coming weeks.