US Airways opts to retain remaining E-190s

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After unveiling plans in July to potentially cut its 25 Embraer E-190s, US Airways plans to keep 15 of the aircraft in its fleet after brokering a deal with Republic Airways Holdings for the sale of 10 aircraft.

Through a merger transition agreement introduced in 2005 as part of the merger between America West and US Airways, the merged carrier agreed to maintain a certain fleet count. Pilots from the merged carriers have yet to agree on an integrated seniority list to move forward to negotiate a new contract, so the stipulations outlining fleet minimums remain in effect.

US Airways' E-Jet fleet was not included in those minimums, so during the third quarter of 2009 when US Airways was looking for further capacity cuts, it opted to look at options to shed its small fleet of 25 E-190s.

US Airways in October reached an agreement with Republic Airways Holdings for the sale of 10 E-190s, which entailed Republic applying the balance of a $35 million loan to the major towards the purchase of the aircraft.

At one point US Airways was looking at selling the remaining 15 E-Jets, but today in Phoenix during a briefing for journalists carrier CFO Derek Kerr said the aircraft were performing well in the shuttle markets on the US east coast where they now operate.

He told ATI and Flightlglobal US Airways has received offers from potential acquirers for one, two or three of the remaining aircraft, but the carrier sees benefit in only selling all the remaining E-190s.

He stresses that the E-190 "from an operational standpoint" performs well in the shuttle markets.

"It is economically a good aircraft," says Kerr, who explains, "It is the only fleet we could reduce."

Fleet adjustments have also resulted in US Airways keeping its Boeing 737-400s longer than anticipated after the carrier in 2009 reached an agreement with Airbus to defer 54 narrowbody and widebody aircraft deliveries scheduled for this year by three years.

Kerr explains US Airways needs to operate the 737-400s longer than the carrier previously estimated to maintain those specified fleet minimums now that the carrier has opted to defer new aircraft deliveries. US Airways also plans to hold onto its older -300s longer than expected for the same reason.

Current fleet projections for year-end 2009 compared to the end of 2010 show US Airways will cut its 737-300 fleet by five to end 2010 with 19 aircraft while the number of -400s is remaining steady at 40.

The decision to retain the younger -400s for longer than expected has resulted in US Airways opting to refresh the aircraft interiors.

US Airways has introduced its lie-flat "Envoy" premium seating on its new Airbus A330-200s the carrier began adding to its fleet in 2009. US Airways is aiming to complete retrofit installation of the premium seats on two of seven A330s currently in operation by October of this year.