A new labour agreement between Delta Air Lines and its pilots maintains existing maximum aircraft seat and weight limits, precluding the future addition of Embraer 175-E2s or Mitsubishi MRJ90s to its feeder fleet.
The agreement must still be ratified by pilots.
Delta's regional jets are limited to 76 seats and a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 39,010kg (86,000lb) under the tentative agreement, according to an update from Delta's master executive council within the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).
Both the E175-E2 and MRJ90 are larger than the current generation of 76-seat regional jets. The former will carry around 80 seats in a two-class configuration with a MTOW of 44,650kg and the latter 81 to 84 seats in a dual-class configuration with a MTOW of 39,600kg.
Neither Embraer nor Mitsubishi were immediately available for comment.
Executives at both airframers have said US regional fleets could not benefit from the efficiency gains of new engine technology – Pratt & Whitney geared turbofans in both cases – without some form of scope relief.
US regional carriers SkyWest Inc and Trans States Holdings have orders for both the E175-E2 and MRJ90, though they can convert the latter orders to the smaller MRJ70.
Delta is able to add up to 25 additional regional jets with up to 76 seats to its feeder fleet under the new contract. However, it can only do so by adding two small narrowbodies to its mainline fleet for each additional regional jet, or up to 50 new mainline aircraft.
The Atlanta-based mainline carrier made a similar deal in its previous pilots contract. It was able to add 70 large regional jets and reduce its fleet of 50-seat aircraft to about 125 aircraft in exchange for adding 88 Boeing 717-200s to its mainline fleet.
Delta could buy the Embraer 190 or 195. The tentative agreement includes a pay rate line for the E190 or E195 separate from that of the 717, suggesting that a deal for used or new aircraft could be in the works.
There is no mention of the Bombardier CS100, a competitor of the E190-E2 and E195-E2, in the contract.
Boeing Capital is marketing a fleet of 20 E190s that it begins taking from Air Canada in the second half of 2015. It is understood that the airframer has found a single taker of the aircraft for either lease or purchase deal.
There are almost no additional used 717s available. Delta acquired three from SAS-subsidiary Blue1 earlier this year in a bidding war with the other three operators of the type – Hawaiian Airlines, Qantas Airways and Volotea.
Delta’s regional fleet will shrink to 425 aircraft from 450 under the new contract.
The carrier declines to comment.