SkyWest and ExpressJet to operate Pinnacle’s CRJ900s

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SkyWest and ExpressJet will operate 16 Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft now owned by Pinnacle Airlines under a new agreement with Delta Air Lines, pending court approval.

Memphis-based Pinnacle filed for Chapter 11 in April. Under its restructuring plan, the carrier has been planning to remove its owned CRJ900s from its fleet by early 2013 as part of the restructuring process. The aircraft will be transitioned to new ownership - a process that is still in negotiations.

The way discussions stand now, ExpressJet would operate 12 of the aircraft and SkyWest would fly the remaining four, says SkyWest, Inc. chief financial officer Mike Kraupp. A majority of the aircraft would likely be operated out of Atlanta, he says.

Sky West Inc. plans to start receiving the Pinnacle-owned aircraft in early 2013, says Kraupp, but there is a possibility that the first two aircraft could join the fleet as early as December. The exact timing of the first delivery is still under negotiation. The aircraft will undergo maintenance inspections before they enter service.

ExpressJet and SkyWest would operate the 16 new aircraft under an agreement with Delta that runs until 2023, says Kraupp. The airlines presently operate 31 CRJ900 aircraft for Delta Connection under an agreement that expires in 2020, which also covers CRJ700 and 900 flying.

Pinnacle says it will continue to operate 41 CRJ900 and 140 CRJ200 aircraft for Delta until its agreement ends in 2022. The bankruptcy court had approved that agreement for Pinnacle's Mesaba subsidiary, but the airline has transferred it to the Pinnacle operating certificate.