Delta Air Lines issued a request for proposal (RFP) yesterday for up to 143 regional jets, including as many as 50 76-seaters.
The RFP covers a portion of the Delta Connection network that has not been affirmed in the bankrupt major’s Chapter 11 proceedings, including flying from wholly-owned subsidiary Comair, Mesa Air Group’s Freedom Airlines unit and Republic Airways’ Chautauqua Airlines and Shuttle America subsidiaries, says Delta. Comair was teh North American launch customer for Bombardier CRJ regional jets and currently operates 179 of the family (one example of which is pictured below), with 67 CRJ100ERs, 42 CRJ100LRs, 43 CRJ200ERs and 27 CRJ700-701ERs.
Bids are being accepted for the operation of up to 43 70-seaters and up to 50 50-seat regional jets operated by these Delta Connection carriers at the major’s hubs in Atlanta, New York JFK and Cincinnati, Ohio as well as other point-to-point flying.
Feeder contracts held by Atlantic Southwest Airlines (ASA) and SkyWest Airlines are not included in the RFP. These deals were retained by Delta late last year after SkyWest completed its acquisition of ASA from the US major.
Significantly, the RFP also calls for the operation up to 50 76-seat aircraft featuring first-class cabins. Delta Connection carriers currently do not operate these larger-sized regional jets. However, a recent collective bargaining agreement ratified by Delta pilots has opened up opportunities for the major to add 76-seaters.
Under that contract, Delta Connection from 1 January next year can operate 15 aircraft with 71-76 seats, and increase that figure to 30 aircraft one year later. More 76-seaters can be introduced, but only on a ratio of three for every one mainline growth aircraft.
Delta’s issuance of the request is not unexpected. Republic Airways president and chief executive Bryan Bedford in a February conference call admitted that “it is clear there will be some renegotiation of the contracts at Delta”.
“[The RFP] is part of Delta’s commitment to bring our costs to market, provide greater efficiency and build a profitable network,” says vice preisdent of supply chain and Delta Connection, Shawn Anderson.
“To successfully restructure, Delta must continue to achieve market-competitive costs in every aspect of its business, as the company has done thus far through the sacrifices of our employees and other stakeholders. The information we receive from the RFP will help us ensure cost-competitive regional flying that meets the needs of our network while providing excellent service for our customers.”
Delta adds that the RFP does not change its network strategy or destinations served.