Topic of the Week: SkyWest to Fly for US Airways

US Airways

Apparently US Airways likes double digits. It seems that 9 Express carriers weren’t enough, so now US Airways has added a tenth to the stable: SkyWest. When Mesa came out of bankruptcy, US Airways agreed to keep 7 of the 50 seat CRJ-200s and 6 of the Dash-8 turboprops in the fleet for a short period of time. That time is up, and US Airways will replace those with 14 SkyWest CRJ-200s with the option to go up to CRJ-700s if it wants. What do you think of the move? Will Mesa’s remaining CRJ-900 operation end up flying under the SkyWest flag one of these days?

As a refresher, here are the other US Airways Express operators:

  • Mesa – operates 38 of the CRJ-900s from Phoenix and Charlotte
  • PSA – (wholly-owned) operates 35 CRJ-200s and 14 CRJ-700s on the east coast
  • Air Wisconsin – operates 70 CRJ-200s on the east coast
  • Republic Airlines – operates 20 ERJ-170s and 38 ERJ-175s on the east coast
  • Chautauqua Airlines – operates 9 ERJ-145s on the east coast
  • Trans States – operates 8 or fewer ERJ-145s from Pittsburgh
  • Piedmont – (wholly-owned) operates 33 Dash-8-100 and 11 Dash-8-300 turboprops on the east coast
  • Mesaba – operates 7 or fewer Saab 340 turboprops on the east coast
  • Colgan Air – operates 7 or fewer Saab 340 turboprops from LaGuardia for now

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23 comments on “Topic of the Week: SkyWest to Fly for US Airways

  1. Q: With the slot swap in LGA, will Piedmont, Mesaba and Colgan be needed anymore ? They have to have some sort of consolidation plan for those planes.

  2. Why would any carrier want more CR2’s right now? Aren’t they virtually impossible to make profitable unless oil prices get cut in half?

    Is SkyWest doing this “at-risk”?

    1. I don’t believe this is at risk. The CR2s are not ideal airplane for much, but they still serve some purpose. This is only 7 airplanes for the entire Phoenix hub.

  3. I think this signals the beginning of the end of Mesa as a separate airline. Their United flying is going away soon and all Mesa will have is the CRJ-900 flying for US. It wouldn’t surprise me to see what’s left of Mesa becoming part of Skywest or simply fading away.

    1. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see PSA (and possibly Air Wisconsin) becoming part of Skywest. I think it won’t be long until there are three major regional airlines (Skywest, Republic and Pinnacle) left.

      I’m not sure about Piedmont. I remember a seeing a story about US “kicking the tires” on the ATR-72 a few years back. With US’s short hauls in the east, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a few turboprops hanging around US, but it might be easier to let Pinnacle (or possibly Horizon?) fly the turboprop missions with Q-400s. Yet, if US needs 37 or 50 seat turboprops in the future, the only replacement possibility I’m aware of is the ATR-42. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes.

      In any event, I see US heading in the direction of the other majors and selling their wholly owned regional subsidiaries in the future.

      But Republic’s ownership of Frontier bucks that trend, so far with questionable results. The future of regional airlines will continue to be an interesting story. It will be fascinating to see how it all shakes out.

      1. It wouldn’t shock me if the Mesaba/Colgan flying at LGA is taken over by Delta in one form or another as the slot swap is implemented. The Chautauqua and Trans States flying may disappear as their contracts expire.

        Then there’s the whole EAS system; but that’s another can of worms. See the FAA shutdown farce for further proof. I’m not as familiar with the carriers who specialize in EAS flying, but it should be interesting to see how that whole stuation evolves. It certainly needs to be “rationalized” to use the popular transportation industry jargon for these kinds of things.

    2. Mesa doesn’t go away unless US Airways wants it to. Since US now owns a chunk of the company, I imagine Mesa sticks around unless US can sell it off and make a little cash on the deal. It wouldn’t surprise me to see that happen at all.

      DesertGhost – DL says it will serve those routes out of LGA with jets after the swap, so I don’t see that happening.

      1. True. But I wonder why US would bother to keep Mesa flying (it only owns 10%) since it already owns PSA and is contracting with Skywest and Air Wisconsin. There may be some reason to keep Mesa around, but it seems there are too many regional airlines and some will go away one way or another. Eagle, Comair, Mesa and Air Wisconsin seem particularly vulnerable, but I could be wrong. It’ll be interesting to see how this shakes out.

  4. I believe the plan is for all of Colgon’s flying is going to be consolidated on the Mesaba certificate making Mesaba the turboprop operator under the Pinnacle umbrella. Colgon will then be added to the dustbin of regional airlines.

  5. I wonder what would happen if all these ‘commuter’ carriers banned together and formed their own single partnership to compete against the majors. That would shake things up I bet…lol

    1. I think there might be some antitrust implications to that kind of action. But I believe the regional airlines already have an industry association (i.e. lobbying and P.R. group) to represent its collective interests.

  6. I’m surprised by this, not because they’re adding a 10th carrier rather than using an existing one, but because they are actually wanting to keep up all their RJ routes. They have made a lot of cuts, but everyone is now realizing that the 50 seat RJs are inefficient, and passengers hate them. Even adding more Dash-8s would be better than CRJ200s. They must have gotten a great deal on them.

  7. It isn’t that the RJ is uncomfortable, it is it has been used inappropriately. It was intended to replace turboprops on 300 to 500 mile legs and it was better than a long flight on a turboprop. Unfortunately it started replacing 737/A320/MD-80s on 2-3 hour legs. The RJ is brutal on the 2-3 hour legs.

  8. I remember hearing back a while ago that US Airways basically has taken every option in their contract to reduce Mesa’s flying that they can. I wonder if they’d want to nudge Mesa off the property?

  9. Iteration number 3,019 on this issue, going nowhere of course, but if I were in charge, I would prohibit any air carrier from using something like an “operated by.” If an airline wishes to hold out to provide service in its name, it should be required to do so using its own airplanes (even little planes if it wants to), its own people, its own everything…whatever.

    To me, service from DC to Norfolk, a distance of about 144 miles, demonstrates some of the craziness with this issue. If one wants to fly between IAD and ORF, on UA, you might be on Colgan, GoJet, Atlantic Southeast, ExpressJet, or Shuttle America, (5 different operators), who knows which one when or where, but never on a UA owned and crewed aircraft. Round-trip fare for any day-trip next week…$1,382, at the lowest. Wow!

    From DCA, you’d take US and be on Air Wisconsin, same fare as UA.

    But, from BWI (a 158-mile trip), on WN, on its own aircraft, using its own crew, $394, round-trip, Wed. the 10th, for example.

    Why the tremendous disparity? Does UA and US really want to serve this market? Does the public want to pay these fares?

    Wouldn’t it make sense to come up with something like the EAS program where a single carrier, and one not affiliated with any “beyond” carrier, rather someone like a Cape Air, run these routes? Mandatory interline agreements and joint fares, even if they were combination of locals. And maybe, even a subsidy if the service just couldn’t make a profit, but the service was in the public interest. Of course, if anyone wanted to run its own aircraft and use its own crew, more power to them. For many carriers, an end to many “spokes,” yes, but isn’t the current situation awfully inefficient (operationally, ATC, etc.), and terribly expensive for the travelling public?

    1. Iteration 3,020 coming up…
      Although it isn’t ideal, the reality is that there is no good way to serve many of those cities without resorting to RJs or props in the current market. Customers as a whole value frequency first (business travelers) or second after price (everyone else). Although it would be possible to retain the same capacity for IAD-ORF, they could run 2 319s, it is more appealing if they run 5 CRJs simply because there are more flight times.
      Their primary purpose isn’t IAD-ORF either. UA/US aren’t trying to serve IAD-ORF, although if they can pick up passengers at $1000+, all the better. They are serving ORF-IAD-the rest of the world, which Southwest can’t for any international markets and many domestic markets.
      The ‘operated by’ is disclosed quite well now, but if that were to be banned, more cities would lose service altogether than see a shift to mainline aircraft. Southwest generally flies only to airports with higher amounts of traffic, since their business model wouldn’t support smaller markets well. If a dedicated connection carrier were to operate these routes, they would still drop many of them, regardless of if they could have complete control over ticket prices.
      In the end, it might be inefficient, but it works as is, so they are here to stay. People still fly them, so the price isn’t objectively too high.

      1. I wonder how much of the IAD-ORF traffic is O&D at either IAD or ORF- has to be very little, IMHO, as that’s a 200-mile drive (<4 hours), which is much less than getting through security at ORF, waiting, and then the flight and traveling by ground from IAD.

        Also wonder how much of that traffic is government business- remember that there is a very large (the largest?) naval & military presence in the Hampton Roads area. I doubt Uncle Sam pays $1k for that flight, gotta be some nice negotiated rates in there.

  10. Does this mean that YV will no longer operate any flying in its hometown next year? And didn’t US get some ownership stake in the post-BK Mesa Air Group? Wonder if that hand anything to do here.

  11. JayB,

    That has less to do with the “connection carrier” issue and more so to do with the fact that DCA is an expensive airport. Flights out of DCA and BWI aren’t an apples to apples comparison. There is a difference because BWI is positioned as the LCC Balto/DC metro airport. WN can’t get in to DCA to push down the process and even if they did, it would have to come at the cost of BWI.

    DCA will probably never be a cheap airport given how slot and perimeter restricted it is.

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