It seems hard to reconcile the rather dark and anxious tone of this year’s Regional Airline Association convention with double-digit margins and record revenues. Listening to airline delegates speak at this year’s get-together, one got the distinct impression they knew something the rest of us didn’t. In fact, regional airlines have been waiting for the day the gravy train of guaranteed RJ profits derailed.
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Delta Air Lines sent another clear message to its wholly owned affiliates that it won’t hesitate to outsource more regional jet flying to independent partners when it signed Mesa Air Group as the latest Delta Connection carrier last month. The 12-year deal gives Mesa’s Freedom Airlines subsidiary the right to fly up to 30 fifty-seat Bombardier CRJ200s for Delta, the first of which it expects to put into service in October.
Never a hotbed of activity for the West’s two regional jet makers, the Middle East market for RJs has long seemed as barren as the Arabian Peninsula’s Empty Quarter. But like the oil riches that lie beneath the desert sands, the need for smaller, more efficient airplanes has finally surfaced with a little coaxing, as Embraer proved in late April.
While many European companies still view business jets as “corporate barges” rather than genuine business tools, statistics show they are more likely to warm to corporate/executive shuttles. Perhaps this is because of a shuttle’s more utilitarian purpose as a transporter of a company’s employees rather than just the company’s executives.
Bombardier’s Q400 turboprop continues to steal the spotlight from the company’s regional jet offerings, most recently drawing a firm order for another four examples from Flybe during last month’s Paris Air Show. The option conversion, coupled with an order for 20 Q400s announced in January, will increase Flybe’s Q400 fleet to 45 aircraft.
Avions de Transport Regional landed firm orders for 20 new airplanes from four customers at last month’s Paris Air Show. Finnish regional airline Finncomm signed for eight 48-seat ATR 42-500s, Corsica’s CCM for six ATR 72-500s, New Caledonia’s Air Caledonie for a still undefined mix of three ATR 42-500s and ATR 72-500s, and Air Madagascar for two ATR 72-500s and a single ATR 42-500.
Embraer entered the Paris Air Show on a roll last month and exited with a flourish, signing orders for fourteen 118-seat 195s with Flybe and twenty 190s with GECAS. The Brazilian company also found a new route to India with a preliminary commitment for two Embraer 170s and three 175s from start-up airline Paramount Airways.
Now that US Airways and America West Airlines have officially announced their intention to merge, the question of what will happen with the various regional airlines that fly under those airlines’ codes seems a logical one. But to answer it requires insight into any changes in store for the two majors’ own route structures, details of which remain sketchy.
How have the preparations for the JetBlue deliveries progressed?
The context is intense; there are several things going back and forth. Our technical people are in New York, their technical people are here…everything is going all right; JetBlue is preparing for the delivery very professionally. I have never seen such a preparation for an entry into service. I anticipate they will do quite well.
Well behind many other regions, and more than 10 years after initial proposals, Europe is about to rule on proposed commercial single-turbine-engine flights at night or in instrument meteorological conditions (SEIMC operations, roughly equivalent to flights under U.S.