SkyWest joins American Airlines regional network

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SkyWest Inc has become the second independent regional airline to join the American Airlines system in addition to the mainline parent company's wholly-owned subsidiary American Eagle.

SkyWest Airlines and ExpressJet Airlines, which are both subsidiaries of SkyWest Inc, will operate 23 Bombardier CRJ200 regional jets under the American Eagle designation, the Utah-based carrier says.

SkyWest Airlines will contribute 12 50-seat regional jets to the American capacity purchase agreement, while ExpressJet will provide 11 aircraft. All 23 aircraft are expected to be sourced within the existing fleet of both carriers, according to SkyWest Inc.

Starting on 15 November, the aircraft will be operated primarily out of two of American's largest hubs at Dallas/Fort Worth and Los Angeles, SkyWest Inc says.

American Airlines previously signed a capacity purchase agreement with Chautauqua Airlines, a Republic Airways subsidiary. Chautauqua provides 15 Embraer ERJ-140 regional jets under the AmericanConnection brand. American pays Chautauqua a fee per block hour to operate the aircraft.

Republic has launched a process to restructure Chautauqua's operational costs, as it currently operates all of its capacity purchase agreement with mainline carriers at a financial loss.

American's regional network has emerged a key prize for the regional airline industry. American has sourced regional feeds to its hubs almost exclusively from its in-house American Eagle subsidiary, but those plans are evolving.

Last year, AMR initiated a process to spin-off American Eagle as an independent carrier, forcing it to compete with other independent carriers for American's routes. The process was put on hold when AMR filed for bankruptcy protection last November.

In May, American Eagle chief executive Daniel Garton said AMR would likely resume plans to spin-off the regional carrier once it emerges from the bankruptcy process.