Rising fuel price prompts US airline to re-examine fleet strategy as it considers acquisition of larger regional jets

US regional SkyWest Airlines is re-examining turboprops for its future fleet needs as the cost of operating small regional jets increases due to the dramatic rise in fuel price. The carrier, which operates feeder services for Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, is also evaluating the large regional jet types.

SkyWest recently took over Delta feeder Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA), giving it a combined fleet of 370 aircraft – the bulk of which are 50-seat Bombardier CRJs. It is also introducing the larger CRJ700 in some markets.


“We’ve reached saturation point with the 50-seat CRJ at United and Delta,” SkyWest director Steve Black told delegates at last month’s Cargo Facts 2005 conference in Seattle. “The increase in fuel price has renewed our interest in turboprops – they are clearly in our future for certain markets,” he added.

Although the airline has a fleet of 80 turboprops across the SkyWest and ASA fleets, it plans to get rid of them the next nine years. The fleet comprises 12 ATR 72s that are due to be phased out by 2007, and 68 Embraer Brasilias, the last of which are due to be retired by 2014. Black said that the airline is looking at the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop as it has good “hot and high performance and is as fast as a jet”.

Meanwhile the larger, 90-seat regional jets are being evaluated, and could be flown in lower- density layouts until pilot scope clauses allow them to be flown at full capacity. “We’re discussing with Delta taking CRJ900s scoped to 70 seats and we’ll add more seats when new contracts are negotiated,” said Black.

United Express/Ted vice-president operational services Sean Donahue told Cargo Facts 2005 delegates that United Airlines’ low- fare arm Ted is considering adding a second fleet type as it expands. More than half of United’s 97 A320s are operated in the Ted fleet, or are due to be transferred over the next year.


Source: Flight International