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.

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