Regional jet growth has taken its first major stumble with the decision by ExpressJet, the Continental Airlines feeder, to slow its deliveries of Embraer ERJ-145XRs.

The carrier will take 36 Embraers this year instead of 48, and 21 in 2004 instead of the original 36. ExpressJet will accept the remaining 29 aircraft on order in 2005 and 2006.

Calling the delay "a seminal event", CSFB analyst Jim Higgins says this is the first time that economics rather than scope clause restrictions have slowed regional jet growth dramatically. "Those who have seen unfettered growth as far as the horizon stretches have got to take notice," he says.

Raymond James & Associates analyst Jim Parker says Continental, which owns 53% of ExpressJet, decided to defer regional jets instead of idling its own mainline fleet. He adds it is "counter to the trend of major airlines removing their own narrowbody aircraft and replacing them with regional jets".

Source: Airline Business