Bombardier landed the first regional jet sale to a U.S. carrier this year when Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines subsidiary Atlantic Southeast Airlines converted options to firm orders on three 50-seat CRJ200s last month. The order, valued at some $68.7 million, brings to 237 the number of 50-seat CRJs ordered by ASA and fellow Delta subsidiary Comair, of which 191 have been delivered and another 46 remain on backlog.
Atlantic Southeast Airlines
Political and commercial agendas, both individual and collective, rarely allow for a wholly accurate assessment of the regional airline industry’s condition. With an array
of conflicting and ambiguous signals from within executive circles, trying to gauge industry prospects at this year’s Regional Airline Association convention in St. Louis would prove as frustrating as ever.
Pilot attrition proved the bane of the U.S. regional airline business during the first half of the year, forcing flight cancellations that cost carriers not only passenger revenue and goodwill, but performance penalties under the terms of their mainline code-share contracts. Judging by the sentiments airline CEOs expressed recently, better recruiting and training efforts have stopped the proverbial bleeding.
Delta Connection carriers Atlantic Southeast, SkyWest and Chautauqua Airlines will fly another 45 fifty-seat regional jets under contract with Delta Air Lines under a series of deals that call for delivery of both Embraer and Bombardier airplanes through the end of next year. Wholly owned subsidiary Atlantic Southeast Airlines will convert options on 25 Bombardier CRJ200s to a firm order, while St.
SkyWest COO Brad Rich said last month that Delta Air Lines has “expressed its desire specifically to us” to sell one or both of its regional subsidiaries–Atlantic Southeast Airlines and Comair–to the St. George, Utah-based regional carrier. “I think it’s more than just an interest,” said Rich. “They need to generate some capital somewhere, and this is one way to do it.”
Notwithstanding recent complaints of poor operational performance by the nation’s biggest regional airlines, passenger boardings, revenue passenger miles (RPMs), load factors and average trip distance all broke records during last year’s third quarter, according to statistics compiled by Washington, D.C.-based The Velocity Group for the Regional Airline Association.
Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA) pilots on December 15 picketed the company’s newest flight crew base, at Los Angeles International Airport, to protest the lack of progress in their contract talks with management.
The union representing the pilots of SkyWest Airlines regional airline subsidiary Atlantic Southeast Airlines on October 13 began picketing the long-time union-free parent company at its St. George, Utah headquarters. At press time, the sides remained far apart on demands for what the union calls a “moderate” wage increase and work rule improvements.
Twilight has fallen unceremoniously on the heyday of the 50-seat regional jet, and Bombardier’s October 28 announcement that it would suspend production of the CRJ200 only underscored that fact. Of course, the recent bankruptcies of Northwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Independence Air haven’t helped, but signs of a meltdown came long before any CRJ operators stopped deliveries or started grounding airplanes.
The giant sucking sound generated by the bankruptcies of two of the largest airlines in the U.S. echoed last month through the financial community and across the air transport industry, including the regional airline sector. Among Delta’s various partners, wholly owned Comair stands to feel the most profound repercussions because it now too operates under Chapter 11 protection.