US Airways expects to spend $35m on Express two-class upgrade

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US Airways estimates spending $35 million on upgrading 110 larger Bombardier and Embraer jets flown by Express carriers with a new first class product.

Carrier chief financial officer Derek Kerr supplied the estimated spend on 6 April during the annual US Airways media day.

Of the 110 aircraft, 14 CRJ700s are operated by US Airways' wholly-owned subsidiary PSA Airlines, and the remaining aircraft are flown by Express carriers Mesa and Republic Airlines.

US Airways SVP marketing and planning Andrew Nocella tells ATI and Flightglobal US Airways made the decision to reconfigure the aircraft in late 2010. The upgrades will be completed on one aircraft type at a time.

Nocella says while it might be perceived US Airways was "late to the game" with the first class regional product compared with its legacy competitors, mimicking their service wasn't a driving factor in the decision.

"If we wanted to be a copy cat for our competitors we probably would have done this two years ago," he says.

As Express flights comprise a significant portion of US Airways' departures, Nocella explains the decision was driven by a goal of offering product consistency and opportunities presented by the new service, including selling upgrades at the gate.

US Airways is offering nine first class seats on the CRJ700s and 58 in economy. The CRJ900s will have the same number of first class seats and 70 in economy.

On the Embraer products, US Airways plans nine first class seats on the E-170 and 60 in economy and an eight seat first class cabin on the E-175s 72 seats in the economy section of the aircraft.

All of Mesa's 39 CRJ900s will be reconfigured, while 20 E-170s and 38 E-175s flown by Republic are featuring first class.

The seat pitch of the 1-2 first class configuration will be 37 or 38-inches, says US Airways.

Once the refurbishments are complete, US Airways' daily first class seats should rise 21% to 21,000 and the number of dual class system departures will grow 21 percentage points to 61%.

US Airways plans to operate the dual-class small jets on 640 daily flights to 85 cities.