United plans one-for-one replacements with E-175s

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United Airlines will replace 50-seat regional jets one-for-one with new Embraer 175s when deliveries begin next year, executives say.

The Chicago-based carrier will receive the first of 70 76-seat E-175s in April 2014 continuing through the end of 2015. These are split between its own order for 30 aircraft, which will be operated by Mesa Air, and 40 from SkyWest Airlines.

United’s 50-seat regional jet fleet, which includes 75 Bombardier CRJ200s and 277 Embraer ERJ145s as of the end of September, will decline to about 282 aircraft during the same period.

With the replacements, regional aircraft with 70- to 76-seat will constitute 47% of the airline’s feeder fleet at the end of 2015 compared to 34% today, says chief revenue officer Jim Compton during United’s investor day on 19 November.

The increased gauge will contribute to the 1% to 2% annual growth in available seat miles (ASM) that the carrier anticipates through 2017.

Compton says that the larger aircraft will allow United to improve revenue performance, reduce fuel expenses, better matching capacity to demand, and create new opportunities to sell ancillary products like economy plus.

“I’m very excited about using the regional fleet to also enhance the route network,” he says.

The strategy differs from United’s competitor Delta Air Lines. The Atlanta-based carrier is replacing more than 200 50-seat regional jets at a rate of more than two-for-one with 76-seat Bombardier CRJ900s and 110-seat Boeing 717-200s through 2015.

Delta’s first of up to 70 CRJ900s entered service in August and the first of 88 leased 717s earlier in November.

United plans to hit its current scope clause restriction of 255 regional aircraft with at least 70 seats by the end of 2015, executives say. These include its Bombardier CRJ700s, Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s, Embraer 170s and the new E-175s.