More regional jets are coming to United Airlines and that’s quite likely good news for everyone involved. The announcement today will add 50 additional Embraer E75s to the operation through regional operator Republic Airways Holdings. The move will allow the existing operating agreement with Republic subsidiary Shuttle America to be adjusted and the E75 fleet assignments to be shifted as needed. The new planes are expected to be delivered between 2015-2017 and are in addition to the 70 E75s previously ordered and which are operated by SkyWest.
The new aircraft have been earmarked to replace the Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 turbo prop fleet currently operated for United Express by Republic Airlines, another Republic Airways subsidiary. There will also be a displacement or retirement of some other “older, less-efficient aircraft” as part of the move, though details on that are unclear. Most likely this means the retirement of some 50-seat regional jets as well but United did not clarify that in the release.
For the regional operators this potentially means the retirement of the Q400 fleet in the United States. United is currently the only operator of the type and it is unlikely that others will choose to add them to the fleet. This is likely the end of independent regional operations for the Q400 in the United States. Horizon operates them for Alaska Airlines as a wholly owned subsidiary under the same parent organization. United’s Q400 fleet came in from the Continental side of the merger and allowed larger aircraft on some routes operated by regional carriers but not violating the pilot scope clause for Continental. With the new combined pilot contract the scope clause allows for more of the larger jets, making the Q4s less desirable in the fleet. They are still more efficient than the E75s over shorter distances but United has been stretching the definition of “regional” when it comes to regional jet flying and having more of the larger jets available will better serve those plans.
As a passenger I don’t really mind the Q4s much but the larger E-Jets are some of my favorite on which to fly. I’m definitely a fan of this move from a passenger comfort perspective, even if United has not yet committed to upgrading the in-flight service levels on the smaller jets. Yes, meals are coming in first class on some routes starting next year but other amenities remain relatively behind comparable sized aircraft and routes for other major carriers in the region. Still plenty of room to improve but this is a step forward.
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- United announces E75 routes
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