American Eagle Becomes Just a Brand Like United Express and Delta Connection

I’m hanging out with the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a this week, but fear not. I have posts scheduled to go live. Today, we talk American Eagle.

The casual traveler might not realize this, but American’s regional operation is far different from those of the other big US airlines for a few reasons. All of those reasons, however, are about to be blown up and American Eagle will look a lot like Delta Connection, United Express, or US Airways Express. American’s announcement that it would make American Eagle a brand name and bring on SkyWest as its first non-owned operator is just the beginning of many changes to come.

Today, wholly-owned American Eagle and its subsidiary Executive Airlines are the only airlines that fly as American Eagle. With more than 200 airplanes, that is nearly all of American’s regional operation. The only other airline that flies in American’s regional operation today is Chautauqua, an airline that flies 15 ERJ-145s but NOT as American Eagle. Those operate as AmericanConnection for now.

American Eagle Changes

American Eagle will now become a brand instead of an actual airline. In other words, any regional airline will be able to fly as American Eagle from now on. Chautauqua’s AmericanConnection operation will now fly under the American Eagle banner and the AmericanConnection brand will disappear. But the big news is that there’s a new partner in town… SkyWest.

SkyWest signed a deal to fly 23 CRJ-200s (12 by SkyWest and 11 by subsidiary ExpressJet) for American. I believe the 12 SkyWest airplanes will all go to LA. American Eagle’s current flying at LAX will end except for the larger CRJ-700 flights. The 11 ExpressJet aircraft will head to Dallas/Ft Worth to operate from that hub.

Why is American doing this? Simple. Costs. American Eagle is a higher cost operator but American was hamstrung to do much about that until it went into bankruptcy (especially since it owns the thing). So now it can break all kinds of contracts and do just about anything it wants. This deal with SkyWest helps with costs on a couple levels. Some if it is just having lower operating costs. But there’s also a benefit by having Eagle close its small crew base in LA. The CRJ-700 flights that it continues to operate will be flown by crews from elsewhere. And since SkyWest already has a massive operation at LAX flying for United and Delta, it’s easy for the airline to just grow its operation a little bit.

But why is SkyWest doing this? That one is easy. You will recall that Delta recently made a deal with SkyWest that sees a bunch of CRJ-200s get parked. SkyWest must have been desperate to find a home for those airplanes, and this is a start. I would bet it gave American a very good deal since it wanted to get those airplanes flying again and didn’t exactly have a ton of options. This should also give SkyWest an in for getting a piece of the big 70-90 seat business that American will be throwing around. Remember, now that the pilot contract has been broken, that restriction keeping American flying only 47 regional jets with more than 50 seats is toast. I would imagine we’ll see hundreds of these airplanes come into the operation, regardless of who is running American. And SkyWest will certainly want a piece of that.

So now, American Eagle will be just a brand instead of an actual airline. In fact, American Eagle the airline is going to have to get a new name. I hear SureJet is still available.

If you’re a passenger that’s used to flying American Eagle, then you might notice a difference here. But if you’re a passenger used to flying regionals on other airlines, this is just going to feel a lot like that. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. This is a lot more coming.


23 Responses to American Eagle Becomes Just a Brand Like United Express and Delta Connection

  1. BrianKal says:

    any idea on what will happen to Eagle at JFK? I fly DCA-JFK quite a bit on the ERJs, so curious here.

  2. Rob says:

    I am surprised the SkyWest flights weren’t branded as American Connection… What was crazier was when Alaska Air Group removed Horizon as a public brand, introduced SkyWest flights, and turned Alaska into a brand instead of an airline.

    • From what I heard from an Alaska employee the CEO hates the “Express” “Connection” monikers. The planes are painted Alaska Horizon or Alaska Skywest. I don’t see how it is much different. American Eagle and Alaska Horizon flights are all sold under the brand and flight numbers of their associated major airline.

      • AirBoss says:

        Maybe, but it took them 25 years to un-brand Horizon.

        • And that being said Horizon had long been associated with Alaska. Also they maintain the Horizon differentiator of free beer (and wine?) on the flights..

          The branding change was really the public face of a bigger reorganization. Horizon lost much if not all of their at-risk flying and now pricing, capacity management, etc are all handled by Alaska.

  3. Is this making the original AmericanEagle workers feel better or making them nervous that they will be booted out in favor of other airlines like Skywest?

  4. Jeremy says:

    I just hope smaller cities like SAF (Santa Fe, New Mexico) does not lose any LAX flights because of this, because at least in the case of SAF the flights to LA are on ERJ-135s. Yes SAF does have flights to DFW on ERJ-145s but still if SAF loses LAX flights it will hurt bad as if you want to go west now you have to go long way which will suck bad

  5. Sanjeev M says:

    SkyWest is one of the more reliable regional operators so this should be good. Will American have any limits like DL’s 750 mile route or will they be running 3 hour flights on the CRJ’s? That would be horrible.

  6. BrianKal says:

    How will this affect Eagle ops at JFK? I fly DCA-JFK often and are curious with many upcoming segments booked

    • Mke says:

      Probably won’t affect it at all.

      As cranky mentioned, skywest/expressjet will operate from LAX and DFW. (and that wont start until november I believe). any further operator changes should also have a ramp up period of several months.

  7. AirBoss says:

    So far, AA not seeking to contract for anything over 80 seats, though has 88-seat scope available to use.

  8. This particular move is much ado about nothing in the short term. But the long term implications are huge. The regional airline industry is one of the few industries where there are more vendors (regional airlines) than there are customers (legacies).

    I see Eagle being spun off (to the post bankruptcy shareholders as part of or soon after the emergence from Chapter 11), shut down, sold (to another regional airline) or performing only ground handling functions. I don’t see it surviving as a flying subsidiary (I also see the same fate for Piedmont and PSA).

    I also see the eventual consolidation of the regional industry into two or three large providers. This is one small step in that process.

  9. I am from Australia. Our airlines over here are lucky to be still making money. I feel for the US airlines going into bankruptcy. As an aviation nut, I am very sad that it has reached a point where we have lost airlines like Continental, Northwest, America West to mergers just so they can in some way stay afloat. Hopefully this new strategy from AA will help them get out of the hole they have unfortunately fallen into. Lets hope that airlines all over the world can get back to the glory days!

    • Todd says:

      Is Qantas making money these days? My impression is that their labor costs are way out of whack (with some senior captains making over $500,000 / year), and that they’re not able to compete well on long-haul international routes against foreign carriers.

      • Arcanum says:

        My understanding was the Qantas domestic business is doing quite well despite all the competition, while their international business is losing money hand over fist. That’s what’s behind the big changes lately with the EK deal etc.

  10. JayB says:

    Actually, haven’t the legacies themselves become “just a brand?” Certainly, nothing like airlines used to be.

    When an airline operates more than half of its flights (and, how long will it be before ALL of its flights) using a contractor or contract-regional, how does it retain the right to be called an “airline? It’s just a brand.

    “Fly my brand, because it’s better than those other brands. Bottom line, our contracting officials are better than theirs.”

    • JayB, I’ve thought this for a while, but I’m not sure it makes sense to compare flights/planes than ASM/RPMs. If your passengers as a whole are spending a majority of their time in airplanes operated by the legacy is that still a fair observation?

      • AirBoss says:

        But do they? When extensive mainline code-sharing is also involved, the passenger experiences AA* (regional) to AA* (OAL mainline), the “AA” is just a brand.

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