American Airlines will begin upgauging its regional aircraft fleet with Embraer 175s this August, following the lead of Delta Air Lines in rejigging its regional feed.
The Fort Worth-based carrier will use the 76-seat E-175s to replace 63-seat Bombardier CRJ700s and add capacity in nearly all of the 12 markets that they will serve from Chicago O’Hare beginning 1 August. Only two – Minneapolis-St. Paul and Washington National – will result in a reduction of capacity.
While not surprising in light of an industry that wants to dump its 50-seat regional jets, the move is a switch from American’s previous position where it presented 66- to 76-seat jets as an alternative to its mainline fleet.
“Larger RJs [regional jets] have lower per departure costs than our 140-seat MD-80s, which enables us to offer a better schedule without increasing capacity, since each larger RJ has far fewer seats than an MD-80,” the airline said in an employee newsletter in May 2012. “With this superior frequency pattern, American can earn higher yields because we can better schedule flights at times when customers are most willing to pay higher fares.”
American had this to say in its reorganisation plan that it filed with the bankruptcy court on 15 April: “The debtors plan to accelerate the retirement of smaller regional aircraft – those with 50 seats or less – thereby increasing their ability to acquire a significant number of larger regional jets with 51 to 76 seats.”
The airline will place 15 E-175s in service and remove 11 37-seat Embraer ERJ-135s and three 44-seat Embraer ERJ-140s from its regional fleet during the second half.
With American’s plans now clear, it is easy to extrapolate that the 32 E-175s slated for delivery in 2014 and 2015 will continue to replace smaller regional jets.
And what about the proposed merger with US Airways? Doug Parker, chairman and chief executive of the airline and future chief executive of the combined American and US Airways, said in July 2012 that he would like “some larger regional jets to offset some of those 50-seaters” – a sentiment that will undoubtedly be carried over through the merger.
Now only United Airlines is alone in refleeting its regional feed, a move that executives say will occur in 2014.