United Airlines will not order any new large regional aircraft until 2014 at the earliest, say executives.
The Chicago-based carrier will redeploy its existing fleet of 169 Bombardier CRJ700s, Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s and Embraer 170s across its hubs in the on-going optimisation of its network following the merger of United and Continental Airlines in 2010, says Jim Compton, chief revenue officer at United, during an earnings call on 24 January.
The optimisation is possible following the ratification of a new joint collective bargaining agreement with United's pilots this past December. Previously, the CRJ700s and E-170s were mostly limited to former United hubs due to scope restrictions with Continental pilots.
"[This] does present us with a tremendous amount of flexibility to be competitive in the 70 seat market," says Compton. "The first phase this year is being able to redeploy the current 70-seaters we have across the system to optimise the network."
He adds that a "second phase" would begin in 2014 and could include additional large regional aircraft.
American Airlines has ordered 47 Embraer 175s and Delta Air Lines 40 Bombardier CRJ900s in order to optimise their respective regional feeder fleets beginning in the second half of this year. Both aircraft will be configured with 76 seats.
United will add 16 Q400s this year under a previously signed capacity purchase agreement with Republic Airways, which will bring its large regional aircraft fleet to 185 by 31 December.
The airline is in the process of concentrating all of its Boeing 747-400 flying out of San Francisco, except for its Los Angeles-Sydney nonstop, and opened crew bases for the Boeing 737 in Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles, and the Airbus A320 family in Houston last year.