A Deeper Look at United’s CRJ-550 Rollout

United has been talking about this for some time, but last week the airline finally loaded flights operated by the CRJ-550. Initial markets will focus on Chicago with Newark to follow. From what I can see so far, this isn’t just about being able to compete with American. It’s about surpassing the airline.

The Genesis of the 550

The CRJ-550 is United’s attempt to get around its pilot scope clause while improving options for travelers. United, like all US airlines, has a limit on the number of large regional jets that its partners can operate. As of now, it has maxed out that number. It doesn’t, however, have a meaningful limit on those small 50-seat regional jets, so it ends up serving more cities with those airplanes than it would like.

While United might like to fly airplanes with more seats in them on these routes, that’s not the most pressing issue. The big issue is that those 50-seaters (the Embraer 145s and Bombardier CRJ-200s) are all-coach. Couldn’t United put First Class and Economy Plus on these airplanes? It would be rough. These already aren’t the most economical airplanes around, and reducing seat count just won’t make sense. So these airplanes fly around with only coach seating, and that creates problems.

Most notably, as mentioned, frequent fliers can’t get access to Economy Plus or have a shot at an upgrade, because those don’t exist on these airplanes. While this may be a problem in general, the issue is magnified in Chicago where American is able to compete head-to-head with bigger airplanes thanks to fewer restrictions.

United doesn’t want to add small mainline airplanes, something that would trigger additional regional capacity. It also doesn’t think it can get to an agreement with pilots in any meaningful timeframe. So it embarked on this new adventure.

What United has done is have its regional partners take CRJ-700s — which normally seat 70 in a First/Economy Plus/Economy configuration — and put only 50 seats on them. Instead of a 6 First/16 Economy Plus/48 Economy configuration, these airplanes will have 10 First/20 Economy Plus/20 Economy onboard. This gives people a ton of room, and creates opportunities for closets in First Class so the small bins aren’t a problem for those travelers. The end result is pretty fantastic from a customer point of view:

From the airline viewpoint, well, it’s murky. United has to find a way to generate enough revenue from First and Economy Plus to justify the cost of flying that bigger airplane with the same amount of seats as the smaller one. I imagine this will work now, but when the economy turns… all bets are off.

Examining the Rollout

Of course, we know nothing about revenue generation yet, because this hasn’t even begun flying. Now that the markets are out, however, we can get a sense of how United wants to roll this out. The initial batch of markets has United effectively throwing a lasso around any city with moderate business within 600nm of Chicago.

Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz.
  • Beginning October 27, 2019 from Chicago/O’Hare to Allentown, Cedar Rapids, Cincinnati, Columbus, Des Moines, Grand Rapids, Greensboro, Harrisburg, Indianapolis, Madison, Northwest Arkansas, Oklahoma City, Richmond, St Louis, and Tulsa
  • Beginning December 4, 2019 from Chicago/O’Hare to Sioux Falls and Wichita
  • Beginning December 18, 2019 from Chicago/O’Hare to Greenville
  • Beginning December 19, 2019 from Chicago/O’Hare to Green Bay and Syracuse
  • Beginning January 6, 2020 from Chicago/O’Hare to Akron/Canton

What can we glean from these? Well, they fall into a couple of camps, but I think the best way to look at this is at a higher level. For all of these markets combined, here are the the percentage of flights that are on all-coach airplanes versus the percentage that are on planes with First and Economy Plus.

Previously in these markets, United had well over half of its flights without premium cabins. Now, it’ll be less than 20 percent. American, meanwhile, used to have a big advantage. Now it is left deciding how to approach its pending deficit.

Looking on a more granular level, not all of these markets have the same characteristics. There are some like St Louis where American has six flights, all with premium cabins. United has no flight with a premium seat today. All four of United’s flights will switch to make the airline more competitive.

At the other end of the spectrum is something like Wichita. Nobody is flying an airplane with a premium cabin on that route today. Soon enough, all four of United’s flights will have one, and that will give United a clear leg up on American.

There are also markets like Syracuse which had premium cabins on all flights before, and now will have the same after the switch. But remember, every CRJ-550 that takes over a flight means there is more free time for a larger regional jet to move to another route. The ripple effect is real.

What’s Next

After this early rollout, the next phase begins. On February 13, 2020, United extends this from Chicago into Knoxville, Lexington, and Little Rock. But then it goes to Newark for the first time with Cincinnati, Columbus, Greensboro, and Richmond.

Newark to Cincinnati falls into the same category as the rest. Delta flies that route today with premium cabins on all three of its flights. But the rest of Newark is something of a different play than Chicago. These routes have no direct nonstop competition. Yes, they compete with LaGuardia, and that is important. Delta flies nonstop with premium cabins on all these routes. (American is an afterthought with 50-seaters.) But to me this looks like more of a play for premium cabin connections, especially to Europe.

From Richmond, you can easily connect on American through Charlotte to Europe and get premium cabin the whole way. Same goes for Delta through JFK or Atlanta. With United, you don’t have that option today through any hub. This will solve that problem. I’m sure we’ll see more routes coming to Newark soon enough.

I’ve warmed up to this idea since it was first announced, and the way United is deploying this airplane, it looks like quite the coup. This is most definitely a company using out-of-the-box thinking to fix its problems and gain a leg up.

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53 Responses to A Deeper Look at United’s CRJ-550 Rollout

  1. juanat says:

    Correct me if i’m wrong…but I believe these jets are NOT NEW…they will/are converted CRJ-700’s to CRJ-550…CRJ-700’s have not been made in years, and CRJ-900 and CRJ-1000 have or will be soon discontinued because bombardier sold that division.

    • Andy says:

      Correct, they are existing CRJ-700’s being converted to CRJ-550s. This is also being done so they can expand the E175 (25 CRJ-700s had to be removed from United Express flying to allow the 25 E175s that ExpressJet is/will be flying).

    • Stephen I says:

      Some of them were leased from another regional airline that had some extra laying around.

  2. Marty S says:

    …once again leaving IAD a sorry afterthought.

  3. Alex says:

    Are there that many people that care enough to pay for a premium seat on these little <2 hour hops? I always assumed premium seats on regional aircraft were just a way to make elite frequent flyers feel special.

    • CraigTPA says:

      The premium seats on regional aircraft let AA, DL, and UA offer a more consistent product for passengers arriving/departing on longer flights from the hubs. Without them, a passenger flying into, say, O’Hare from Europe or Asia in first or business class has to finish their journey in coach, while AA or DL can offer connections to smaller cities in at least a “premium regional” product.

      (They also come in handy for encouraging loyalty amoung top-tier elites who can get free upgrades if they don’t sell, especially when airlines keep devaluing their FF programmes.)

    • Alex Hill says:

      “Just a way to make elite frequent flyers feel special”, or to make elite flyers choose to be loyal to United instead of American for the many frequent flyers for whom either airline would work approximately equally well out of/through Chicago.

    • CF says:

      Alex – It’s not just the local market, though clearly there is going to be some demand in places like NW Arkansas. It’s also about the connections.
      But even if it is just about upgrades, if those people are buying expensive last minute coach fares, that’s an improvement over having them fly AA.

      • Steve says:

        My home airport is XNA. I am an EP with AA and always fly premium so I can get work done on the plane. I am seriously considering switching to United. It flies premium cabins to where I need to go now. American still has the most options for one-hops but United now does one-hops to all of my primary office locations. It kills me because American has like 55% of the market at XNA and has been very supportive of our airport from day one. I want to be loyal for that reason but AA has just not been very good lately – as has been reported all over the place.

        Here’s another thought too – I like the way that the CRJ-700/900 rides. The E170’s are pretty rough at times. Silly huh?

  4. Tim Dunn says:

    Discussion about the CRJ500 has to include that it is now the highest CASM aircraft in the UA network, higher even than the CRJ.
    UA might get higher RASM as a result of the premium cabins but AA and DL’s use of large regional jets and/or mainline (esp. DL) in competitive markets puts UA at a profitabililty advantage. Notably, UA is also using its E175s for longer routes and the CRJ550s on shorter routes.

    The bigger issue is UA’s resistance to buy a small mainline aircraft which would allow more CASM friendly large regional jets such as the CR9 and E175 which have CASM comparable to A320/737 family aircraft.

    UA’s recent discussion of using larger aircraft is really just to balance out its use of the CRJ550 and the addition of used A319 and 737-700s, all of which have lower acquisition costs but higher operational costs than other aircraft which UA is adding to the fleet.

    • Jon Snow says:

      I’m just curious — what’s your source on E175 vs. 737 and 319 CASM?

      The always-reliable airliners.net does show CR7 fuel burn at 1450 kg/h vs. 1100 for the ERJ and CR2, so yeah, there’s a good 25% fuel burn bump, 10-20% CASM hit over the traditional 50 seaters.

      https://www.airliners.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1355819

      Fun and related topic related to 100 seaters: does the coming pilot crunch mean airlines should insource or further outsource regional flying?

      • Tim Dunn says:

        Airlines report their total cost by airframe to the DOT; Aviation Week publishes that quarterly as do other publications.

        Lower labor cost is why regional airlines exist at all. Fuel is not the only reason.
        Part of the higher CASM for the CRJ550 is because UA is taking a larger aircraft with higher fuel burn and increasing its CASM by removing seats. The fuel CASM on the CRJ550 will be the highest of any commercial aircraft in the US.

        Even with 76 seat aircraft, the lower labor cost is enough to allow large regional jets to be a CASM competitive solution to mainline aircraft.

        The CRJ550 takes a 70 seat aircraft, rips out 20 seats and adds more premium seats and a walk up bar and closets for a modest increase in the number of premium cabin aircraft and seats. The CRJ700 for UA already has first class and economy plus seats. UA is simply ripping out seats, reclassifying them as 50 seat aircraft, and then backfilling what was a 70 seat RJ with 76 seat RJs, both of which had premium cabins before. The net-net is more RJs w/ premium cabins but at a much higher cost which is why UA’s CRJ550 strategy is a significant step backwards in terms of regional system profitability compared to AA and DL.

        • Sunny leveson-jones says:

          TIm, you do realize that the CRJ-550 burns only 400 gallons an hour more with an equivalent load then a CRJ-200, and use the same engine, with the same staffing load. So the entire bet seems to be here that they can get at least enough premium revenue out of 20 Y+, and 10 F seats, to make up that difference in pricing so its not a crazy impossible bet.

          • Tim Dunn says:

            Yes, I do know that the fuel burn is higher than the CRJ which is to be expected since it is a larger airframe. The fact that the passenger load will be the same as the 50 seat CRJ says that the CASM will be higher. The CRJ is already the highest CASM aircraft in the US air carrier fleet.
            I also understand that UA hopes to count on the extra premium seats it can sell to offset the higher CASM. They are effectively removing 70 seat aircraft today from the large aircraft fleet – and those aircraft already have first class seats – and adding a NET increase of 6 total seats by replacing the CR7s with E175s which already burn more fuel than the CR7s. Granted they are more comfortable and more preferred, but the net increase in premium seats is minimal.
            UA is adding a lot more frames with premium cabins by adding the CRJ500s but at a very high CASM.
            No one should fail to understand the math that is at play here.

            And, as you note before, Delta has no reason whatsoever to ask for relaxed RJ scope which means that UA is at best putting a short-term bandaid on a longer term deep seated problem. DL will continue to take scores more mainline aircraft – all of which are larger than the E175 and also all have premium cabins – so UA is not going to close the gap with DL by using this half-baked CRJ550 strategy. They will be adding some premium seats but at a very high CASM – close to double that of the A220.
            AA is nearing its 2 cabin (large) RJ limit but they still will have a far more cost-effective solution to serve small markets than UA.

            UA’s CRJ550 move has to be seen as a high cost attempt to try to close the premium cabin gap but it is at best short term because of the looming life limits of regional jets and it doesn’t really close the gap w/ Delta which will continue to add small mainline aircraft which are far more efficient.

            • Sunny leveson-jones says:

              Its not that much of a higher casm then a crj-200 but the real problem is chicago, where american and united both fly to basically the same destinations and those half the gauge of the planes used, driving casm up, in a historically low fares market.

  5. ejwpj says:

    I thought it would be interesting if just 20 coach passengers were booked, each with 2 bags each. The aircraft probably wouldn’t trim, and many of the passengers would get free upgrades!

  6. A_B says:

    Wishful thinking, but didn’t UAL build terminal D in CLE as a regional hub, maybe bring that back, they still have the lease on it.

    I wonder why the cutoff is 76 and not 75?

    Finally why not just buy a few 717s then get your 70 76ers?

    • Alex says:

      > I wonder why the cutoff is 76 and not 75?

      4 rows * 19 seats/row = 76 seats

      75 is less easily divisible into rows

      > Finally why not just buy a few 717s then get your 70 76ers?

      Because they’re not being made anymore, and they have terrible unit economics unless you have very specific performance needs (like HA’s inter-island flights). If you go in for a small jet, you’re going to buy something with GTF engines, like an A220 or E195-E2.

      • dfw88 says:

        Er, 19 rows * 4 seats/row = 76 seats is probably what you meant there.
        But close enough!

        • Alex says:

          Woops – didn’t mean to leak the details of my super-secret regional jet currently under development. I hope no other airline tries to copy our 6-7-6 seat configuration before we get to market.

        • A_B says:

          That is logical, but then what of 50 and 70 seaters?

          12 rows of 4 -> 48

          16 rows of 3 -> 48

          17 rows of 4 -> 68

          23 rows of 3 -> 69

          • CF says:

            A_B – The last row has a lav in the back on one side and two seats on the other.

          • Alex says:

            50 is the maximum you can have with one flight attendant, so it’s a legal “sweet spot”. If you had 51 seats you’d need to have 2 flight attendants, so the incremental cost of that one extra seat would be really high.

    • Ian L says:

      You’d have to fight DL and HA to get any 717s. For the latter, that’s the only aircraft that can do inter-island hops with high per-day cycle counts.

      At this point UA would need to pick up the E195-E2 or A220.

      • A_B says:

        Yeah that makes sense I figured they’d be a relatively cheap way to get around the scope, but idk how many they’d need to buy to count.

        “Yeah pilots we bought two crapped out md-88s to fly from lost to nowhere, that totally counts as a fleet! now give us those rjs”

        Of course that ‘d be really bad faith to do that.

      • phugoid_mode says:

        I’ve seen this claim a lot about the 717, but I’ve never seen any detail behind it. What exactly is it about the 717 that makes it more advantageous for the inter-island hops and higher per-day cycle counts?

        • CF says:

          Phugoid – The big issue is really with the engines. Newer aircraft engines aren’t very good at doing quick turns off short flights all day long. They just aren’t built to turn quickly. The 717 engines work great in that environment.

          • phugoid_mode says:

            But again, not much detail here. The CFM56 has always done just fine for Southwest’s short stage lengths and quick turns, though their stage lengths are still longer than Hawaiian. What specifically is it about the BR715 that makes it more advantageous on turns? Better material that keeps the engine cooler and allows the quick turn? Does it cost less to maintain due to longer shop visit intervals or longer cyclic part lives so they don’t have to be replaced as frequently as other engines?

            • Alex says:

              CFM56 is fine – Cranky is referring to geared turbofan (GTF) designs like LEAP or PW1000G, which are used in all modern airliner designs.

              However, there are two other factors that make the 717 preferable to a 737-700 (w/ CFM56s) for Hawaiian’s inter-island flights:

              – The 737 is around 40% heavier (~18% heavier per passenger). This matters a lot when a high percentage of your total flight time is spent on takeoff and ascent.

              – The 717 has better performance on the short 6500′ runway at LIH, and can take off loaded to a higher percentage of its capacity than a 737-700.

            • CF says:

              phugoid – I can’t say I know enough about the physical characteristics of engines. I do know that the big issue isn’t with the CFM56 as much as the new generation, as was mentioned by someone else. Those engines take longer to spool up and need more time to cool down. Why? I don’t know, but I know it’s an issue. But then again, even the CFM56 was problematic.
              Aloha used to fly those, but they ditched them and stuck with the old Pratts on the 737-200 until the bitter end.

    • Alex Hill says:

      Continental, but yes, they built it (or certainly operated it) primarily as a hub for then-wholly-owned Expressjet 50-seat ERJs. It’s not clear to me why 50-seat jets would make sense routing connecting passengers through CLE when they don’t make sense out of hubs with much more demand.

      • A_B says:

        Well, we’ve got this terminal they are paying for sitting unused, and it was made for servicing loads of rjs, so IDK have the rjs land in CLE and then put people on a bigger plane to the final destination or to the big hubs?

        I imagine that would use less slot pairs at the bigger airports (maybe those are not limited) plus it could be helpful to have another hub in irrops?

        Realistically though:

        Being from the area I remember everyone was bummed when CLE got dehubbed by UA and my wishful thinking is for United to notice us again ;-(

        Also because this happened before I started flying which means I’ve never got to see terminal D at all and apparently there are cool giant paper airplanes I want to see.

  7. DesertGhost says:

    The whole issue of scope and regional airlines will be interesting to watch over the next few years. The CRJ-550 impresses me as an attempt to use a band-aid to treat a major wound. This is another case where labor is being short-sighted. To be clear, I’m not ant-labor. But I am against keeping antiquated labor agreements that have outlived their usefulness.

    In my opinion (and only my opinion), the only airline whose scope clause makes sense, in the long run, is American’s (and, sadly, that had to be extracted via bankruptcy). But … to me (and again, this is just my opinion), the airline that’s employing the best long-term strategy when it comes to regional versus mainline flying is Delta. If all of the legacy carriers and their pilots’ unions would adopt a combination of American’s scope with Delta’s use of small mainline aircraft, you’d have a win-win situation.

    There are a few reasons for my view.

    The first is that there are apparently no more sub-76-seat regional jets being produced (if someone has better information than I do, please correct me). The current fleet of EMB-145s, CRJ-200s, CRJ-700s, CRJ-900s, E-175-E1s, etc. will need to be replaced with something. But there’s nothing comparable in the pipeline. The only new scope-compliant model is the recently announced Mitsubishi design, and that’s not going to be produced for a few years. There’s also nothing to stop Embraer from continuing to produce the E-175-E1. But both of those aircraft are designed to carry 76 seats. There’s nothing below that being contemplated currently (again, if I’m mistaken, please correct me). The E-175-E2 is out of scope, as are the original Mitsubishi products. An E-175-E1 with 70 seats isn’t much different from the CRJ-550. Both are suboptimal “solutions.” The way to resolve the problem, in the long run, is to find common ground on definitions of scope that match the realities of the aircraft available in the marketplace.

    The second issue is the potential pilot shortage. Coupled with the general upguaging of U.S. airline fleets. This is where Delta’s strategy beats the others in my view. Adding more E-190/195s and/or A220s to U.S. airline fleets not only adds mainline jobs, it addresses the pilot shortage by reducing the total number of aircraft needed. An ancillary benefit is that it potentially lessens crowded air space. A somewhat related issue is the almost inevitable consolidation of the regional airline industry. Post-consolidation, there are simply too many regional airlines chasing too few contracts.

    To reiterate and close, the CRJ-550 is, at best, a short term band-aid for a wound that’s hemorrhaging a pint of blood per second. What’s needed is broad consensus on a workable, long-term solution for scope issues.

    • enplaned says:

      It’s my understanding that United has (or can get) the same deal that American and Delta have – that if United increases the number of small narrowbodies in the mainline fleet, they will get the same kind of relief on larger RJs that Delta has.

      If that’s true, then it’s not labor that’s being short-sighted here, it’s simply that United wants a better deal than Delta. Since that deal seems to be working for Delta, you can’t blame the UAL pilots for insisting on the same deal at United.

    • Tim Dunn says:

      There is no problem w/ the current scope restrictions. Airline pilot unions allowed 50 seat regional jets because they were believed to be too small to matter to mainline pilots. Current large regional jet scope clauses were largely pushed into labor contracts by the big 3 (and their merger partners) during bankruptcy. With even the legacy airlines seeing historically high profitability and strong domestic growth, there simply is no need to even maintain the current level of regional jet activity, let alone expand it.

      UA pilots are being much more rational in their approach to the scope limit than UA management. UA pilots rightfully look at DL and see that DL can make work not just one but two fleets of small narrowbody aircraft with a planned fleet size of over 175 aircraft.

      Delta and United have nearly identical regional jet scope clauses – and most of the rest of their contracts are very similar. There simply is no supportable argument that small mainline aircraft work at Delta but don’t at United based on labor or acquisition or any other cost item.

      UA and its supporters repeatedly argue that UA has the best route system, concentrated in the largest metro areas in the US. Somehow, though, Delta with more hubs in medium sized cities than AA or UA (even though Delta is also the largest carrier in NYC and #2 at LAX) can support 175 small mainline aircraft.

      One of two things must be true – but they both cannot be true.
      1. UA’s network is not really as great as some say it is
      OR
      2. UA management would rather operate a less-efficient regional jet operation than to turn over higher percentages of its network to its own pilots. UA has the highest percentage of its domestic passengers than fly on regional aircraft – more than double the percent of DL.

      Sure it was risky for DL to increase the size of its mainline workforce at the expense of the size of its regional operation; it not only made sense economically but it also made sense from an employee relations standpoint.

      A small mainline aircraft makes just as much economic sense to UA as it does to DL. However, UA management is not willing to trust its own employees to carry a higher percentage of UA’s passengers.

      The CRJ550 has to be seen as not only a bandaid on a severely bleeding wound but a very intentional strategy to contract out as much of UA’s flying as it can even while coming up with strategies that cost more to UA than the strategies that other airlines including DL use.

      There is nothing wrong w/ the scope clauses. UA mgmt. simply has to decide that they want to do what is in their own economic best interest as well as the best interest of their employees rather than continuing to distrust those employees and outsource flying that is ultimately more costly to UA than if it were done in-house.

    • Alex says:

      I’m pretty sure Embraer will build you an ERJ-145 or an E175-E1 if you want to order one. They are still marketing them on their website: https://www.embraercommercialaviation.com/our-aircraft/, and they were still delivering ERJ-145-derived Legacy business jets as of 2018.

      I tend to agree that the status quo is crazy, and that the MTOW limits in the scope clauses in particular need to be revisited to account for heavier modern aircraft, but there is still at least one manufacturer who could still sell you planes if the unions won’t budge.

      • Tim Dunn says:

        again, @alex, why would US airline pilots want to cooperate with further outsourcing of their jobs given that new generation aircraft are more capable and efficient than the planes they are intended to replace? US pilots largely let the airlines operate 50 seat regional jets but the large RJs were not agreed upon as much as they were forced upon the pilots.
        Given the high profitability of DL UA and AA, in that order, why should pilots agree to improve the outsourcing of large regional jets they never wanted anyway? Given that DL is the most profitable and also has moved the furthest toward insourcing more its regional jet flying and because of pattern bargaining in the airline industry, UA will very likely be held to whatever regional jet scope standards DL agrees to with its pilots. DL has no reason whatsoever to agree to relax anything before UA; UA’s pilots have no incentive to agree to any relaxation if DL’s pilots don’t.

        The real question is why UA can’t work w/ its current scope restriction – which allowed Delta to add dozens more large RJs even as it got rid of hundreds of 50 seaters.

        • DesertGhost says:

          To clarify (I hope), I’m wasn’t suggesting further outsourcing. I was suggesting that United should emulate Delta’s acquisition of small mainline aircraft as a way to get more large regional jets.

          American’s scope allows the airline to have 40% of its narrowbody fleet in 66 to 76 seat RJs. In other words, the large regional fleet can only grow as the narrowbody fleet grows. United and Delta’s scope clauses are somewhat more restrictive. Both have a provision that the airlines can acquire a set number of 76 seat jets if they buy a set number of small narrowbodies. Delta wisely (in my view) did that. United hasn’t.

          All I’m suggesting is that American’s 40% limitation could apply at Delta and United without the other restrictions. To reiterate, the regional fleet can only grow in proportion to the mainline narrowbody fleet.

          What I didn’t include because I didn’t have the time or the inclination to write “War and Peace” (but probably should have) is that the carriers and unions could negotiate a reduction in overall outsourcing (in exchange for the added upguaging flexibility) as part of their new scope agreements. The math for replacing the lost regional seats isn’t difficult at all. Generally speaking, airlines are upguaging anyway. This is simply a way to do it where both labor and management win something.

          • Tim Dunn says:

            thanks for your semi-epistle of clarification.

            Pilot unions want no more regional jets of any kind. They are not going to agree to even a reduction in the total number for the company to get larger or more capable aircraft. I may be wrong when this cycle of labor contracts are finished but I don’t think there will be any relaxation of scope.

            Given the 70 seaters (CRJ550s) are getting near the end of their life from a maintenance perspective as are many 50 seaters, UA is in by far the worst position if the pilots don’t cave. Given that Delta has virtually no reason to push for more or larger RJs and every reason to use UA’s much larger regional jet system as an advantage to DL/disadvantage to UA, I fully expect this cycle of labor contracts to force UA to be making some very significant network and fleet decisions in the next few years.

            it is also worth noting that Airbus/Bombardier cannot produce the number of A220s that the market could potentially want – if even one other of the big 4 US airlines decides to buy. The only other option is the E2 which is readily available but its much lower number of sales says it is not the first choice among small mainline aircraft. UA might be trying to wait out higher A220 production

            • Sunny leveson-jones says:

              Delta has already publicly stated they are not asking for scope concessions, and are not interested even negotiating on the Scope clause in this round of negotiations, so its going to be even harder for UA to demand it.

  8. IO says:

    CF, I think you hit the nail in the head when you say “looks like more of a play for premium cabin connections, especially to Europe”.

    As it was, the cnx to regionals wo premium seats had been a “weakness” at CAL thay may have contributed to the relatively lower premium pax share (my guess). The old United did captured a higher PRASM premium that with the merger probably remained stagnant or declined due to the “cheapening” that occurred with Jeff Smisek.

    This move is in line with the push to increase O&D cnx to secondary markets (mentioned by Scott Kirby) and drive revenue gains—I’m still of the opinion that while this may may produce revenue gains they may be just marginal. Perhaps, as with other things in the industry, a more consistent product may be worth it though it may be a financially losing proposition. But then again they have plenty of smarter people than I looking at the data.

    thanks for bringing-up thought provoking topics!

    IO

  9. Tony says:

    I don’t think United would be doing this if they had the option of simply configuring these planes in a standard 70 seat config, but I think it’s a novel idea to compete in the current market. It also aligns with United’s reconfig of the Airbus/767 fleet to be more premium heavy. The risk is that the higher CASM doesn’t pay off with proportionally higher RASM, but now is the time to take that risk with the current state of the industry.

    With that being said, I think it’s important to consider what the business plan is during a down turn. Are these planes going to be dead weight, or will they be able to turn a profit? Would be interested to know to what extent that’s been considered, or if this is a stop-gap measure and there are more plans in the works to eventually configure these normally.

  10. Evil Bob Crandall says:

    CF,
    One of the big turnoffs with these planes is the size of the lava. You have to be a contortionist to use one. Is this going to change for the better on this airplane?

  11. TRB says:

    I read somewhere recently that the new DeHaviland and it’s takeover of the Dash/Q line from Bombardier was looking to pitch the nearly as fast as jets Q400s in configurations like this and tout the operational cost savings. With all the CS500s and ER145s out there not getting any younger something is going to have to fill in the dearth of regional planes for the US market on horizon

  12. Hajime Sano says:

    Hi Brett, I’m looking forward to trying out this “new” aircraft. You mention that on Dec. 18, Chicago O’Hare to Greenville service is starting. Perhaps my old eyes missed it, but I saw a Greensboro but not a Greenville. Is that a typo, or did I miss the airport on the map?

    *** Never mind- I looked up GSP (Greer) and it is Greensville, SC. ***

    Thanks!

  13. CZBB says:

    This is all just a re-hash of what Air Canada did for years
    CRJ-900, rebranded as CRJ-705 to carry no more than 75 to stay within scope clause.

    In this case, UX pick up a lot of 700s very inexpensively, and re-brand with a premium cabin.

  14. Homer says:

    Needs a second Lavatory for 1st class as do the CRJ700

  15. Alex says:

    My wife and I flew an ERJ145 on the way to our wedding, and we had to pay for an extra seat for her wedding dress, because checking it would have been too risky. If the flight had been on one of these, I would have happily paid for domestic first just to get access to those closets!

  16. zoned says:

    Was really hoping for one of these routes to extend to KFAR. Maybe next round.

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