Republic Airways Holdings is set to become the first US regional carrier to operate 100-seat jets once it starts operating Embraer E-190s for partner Midwest Airlines.

The two airlines are expanding their air services agreement to cover two extended range "AR" Embraer E-190s, with flights starting in August and September.

Each 100-seat aircraft will feature 20 of Midwest's "Signature" class seats. Midwest CEO Tim Hoeksema says the Embraer jets "are part of a comprehensive fleet plan being finalized by Midwest".

Hoeksema also says the new E-190s will give Midwest flexibility in terms of route network and range, "with the potential to once again fly nonstop to the West Coast from our Milwaukee hub".

Midwest plans to announce the new E-190 routes in the near future.

The deal expands a 10-year pact Midwest and Republic reached in late 2008 for the operation of 12 E-170s by Republic for Midwest. Republic at that time agreed to supply $15 million in financing to Midwest, and a further $10 million if Midwest met certain milestones.

Republic sits in a rare position with the opportunity to fly 100-seaters for Midwest. Scope limits in US mainline carrier pilot contracts generally have no caps on 50-seat operations. But the number of 70-seat-plus aircraft flown by regional carriers is usually tied to mainline growth, and no contract allows for the operation of 100-seaters. Midwest, however, has none of those constraints.

Republic is sourcing its E-190s through a 60 month lease with GECAS.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news