United Airlines has moved to exploit newfound freedom to alter the composition of its regional jet network with a tentative deal to add 30 new Embraer E175s to the United Express fleet. Plans call for the 76-seat airplanes—configured to carry 12 passengers in first class, 16 in so-called Economy Plus and 48 in standard economy—to replace some of the 50-seat regional jets in the United Express fleet, a majority of which consist of Embraer ERJ-145s operated by former Continental Express carrier ExpressJet. United expects deliveries to run from next year to 2015, but it hasn’t revealed which partner or partners it has chosen to fly the airplanes.
According to United, the E175s will burn 10 percent less fuel per seat mile and emit less carbon dioxide per seat than the 50-seaters they replace.
A new scope clause negotiated late last year with United’s pilot union, the Air Line Pilots Association, set the conditions for UAL’s first deployment of 76-seat jets. The new contract allows for a total of 130 seventy-six-seat jets out of a total of 255 airplanes in the 70-/76-seat category. After Jan. 1, 2016, the total of 76-seaters may rise to 153, while the number of 70-/76-seat-category airplanes may total 325.