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Mesaba to fly CRJ900s previously allocated to Freedom Airlines

A framework of regional operations between the merged Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines is starting to emerge as 14 Bombardier CRJ900s previously allocated to Mesa subsidiary Freedom Airlines are being reassigned to Mesaba.

Mesaba became a wholly-owned Northwest subsidiary in April 2007 after it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and currently flies a total of 99 aircraft for its parent company including 33 next-generation CRJ900s.

Delta has decided to allot 15 additional -900s to Mesaba starting in January, and seven of those aircraft are earmarked for operations from Atlanta.

The first seven will transition from Delta Connection carrier Pinnacle Airlines. Last month those two carriers reached an agreement for Pinnacle to operate seven aircraft exiting Freedom's operations on a temporary basis.

Delta stripped the business away from the Mesa subsidiary after determining Freedom failed to meet certain operational targets established in the air services agreement between the two parties.

During an earnings call last week management at Pinnacle said the carrier is currently operating three of the CRJ900s formally operated by Freedom, and three additional aircraft should come online by the end of this month. The carrier plans to use the last CRJ900 as a spare.

All 14 of the CRJ900s originally slated for operations at Freedom were ordered by Delta, and at the time Delta terminated the deal Mesa said it subleased the seven aircraft in operation for one dollar per month.

A Delta spokesman explains that the former Freedom CRJ900s will exit Pinnacle's operations on a one-per-one basis as Pinnacle starts taking delivery of additional CRJ900s it purchased directly from Bombardier for Delta Connection operations. Flight's ACAS database shows Pinnacle has 11 CRJ900s in operation and five on order.

Mesaba plans to take delivery of the seven remaining CRJ900s originally slated for Freedom plus one additional aircraft from January through May of next year, resulting in all 15 aircraft being online by June.

Delta says the configuration of the new Mesaba CRJ900s will be the same as the aircraft currently flown in the Northwest network - 12 seats in first class and 64 in coach.

Once the transition is complete, Mesaba will be the largest operator of 76-seat jets in the Delta family at 51 aircraft.

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