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US Airways drops all firm orders for Bombardier regional jets, cancelling backlog of 29 aircraft as Embraer jet deliveries start

US Airways has dropped all of its firm orders for Bombardier regional jets.

The carrier’s long-standing order for CRJ701s - which until recently included a backlog of 29 aircraft - have been officially changed to ‘soft options’, US Airways tells Flight.

These soft options can be converted to any regional jet model in the Canadian manufacturer’s portfolio at a later date, although the carrier notes that it does not "have to do anything with them".

Additionally, a single CRJ200 that had been earmarked for the carrier is no longer in Bombardier’s backlog, although the Canadian airframer previously told Flight this aircraft is not expected to be built.

The CRJ701 order has been in question for some time. During the Regional Airline Association’s 2006 annual conference in May, Bombardier vice president for marketing and communications Trung Ngo told reporters the manufacturer was still in discussions with US Airways for affirmation of the order.

US Airways now says the carrier had been “working with the bankruptcy court and Bombardier to get a final agreement nailed down” and has recently reached an agreement.

Bombardier on 29 November confirmed the deal with US Airways was brokered this month, resulting in the manufacturer’s removal of 29 CRJ700 and one CRJ200 aircraft from its order backlog.

The move comes two months after Air Line Pilots Association-represented pilots at PSA Airlines voted down management’s proposal to introduce CRJ900 flying at the regional subsidiary in exchange for a pay concession to operate the type.

That plan could have seen the US major convert its then valid CRJ701 orders to the larger-capacity aircraft, although neither side confirmed that this would occur.

The proposal would have allowed PSA to start taking CRJ900 deliveries as early as January, PSA said this summer in an online message to staff. The regional highlighted US Airways’ pre-bankruptcy order with Bombardier for CRJ900s and further revealed that management was negotiating “for 20 firm aircraft plus an option for, possibly, an additional 20 aircraft”.

Of the 330 PSA pilots who cast ballots in August, 64% voted down US Airways’ proposal.

As a result, US Airways shelved its near-term plans for introducing the CRJ900 at PSA. “Certainly we’re not going to order planes unless we have a rate that makes sense for us,” the US Airways spokesman now says.

He adds: “All we have right now is the 29 soft options for any of the CRJ family.”

There remains, however, “an interest” for US Airways to “still get larger regional aircraft in the 90-seat family”, says the spokesman.

Meanwhile, the carrier will take delivery of its first 99-seat Embraer 190 in two weeks, after a five- to six-week delay. The aircraft “goes into revenue service in February”, says a spokesman.

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