Regional carrier Air Wisconsin is looking forward to flying for the new American Airlines after its proposed merger with US Airways, says chief executive Jim Rankin.
The Appleton, Wisconsin-based airline flies 71 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200s, according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online database, all of which fly under contract for US Airways.
"I'm very much a consolidation fan," says Rankin on the sidelines of the Regional Airline Association (RAA) annual conference in Montreal today. He says that the combined American and US Airways will be a stronger partner for Air Wisconsin.
Asked about the future of the carrier's 50-seat aircraft, Rankin says that Air Wisconsin plans to upgauge its fleet over the long-term but adds that the aircraft will fly for "many years to come".
"To get ready for the next 48 years, we need to get larger jets," he says. "[But] long-term there is a market for the 50-seater." He estimates that there will be a need for 400 to 500 50-seat jets in the USA, down from the peak of 1,200 a few years ago.
American, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and US Airways are all in the midst of upgauging their regional fleets. American is replacing 24 37- and 44-seat jets with 36 50-seat and 76-seat aircraft this year, while Delta will remove more than 200 50-seaters and replace them with 70 76-seat regional and 88 110-seat mainline aircraft by 2015.
US Airways has announced the replacement of nine 50-seaters with an equal number of 76-seaters. United has ordered up to 70 Embraer 175 Pluses for delivery from 2014 but not disclosed a replacement plan for its smaller jets.
Operators of large regional aircraft in the USA include GoJet Airlines, Pinnacle Airlines, Republic Airways and its subsidiaries, SkyWest Inc and its subsidiaries, Trans States Airlines and its subsidiaries.
Air Wisconsin would only acquire larger regional aircraft through a contract with a mainline carrier, says Rankin.
Asked about United's plan to seek a regional operator for its E-175s, he says that the airline will "certainly look" at contracts with carriers other US Airways.