United Airlines has asked for requests for proposal (RFP) from 10 regional airlines to fly up to 70 regional jets on routes now controlled by Appleton, Wis.-based Air Wisconsin. The 10 airlines include all of United’s existing partners, as well as Independence Air–the former United Express carrier turned low-fare competitor to UAL at Washington Dulles and Chicago O’Hare Airports.
The recent run of big orders for new turboprops has no doubt lifted the spirits of the two remaining builders of prop-driven airliners.
In a scenario all too familiar since the advent of the regional jet age, the pilots of Air Canada and its regional airline subsidiary, Air Canada Jazz, could hold the key to the insolvent company’s plans to field at least 90 new jets from Bombardier and Embraer.
New airline industry statistics released last month by the office of DOT inspector general Kenneth Mead revealed that regional jets now account for one-quarter of all departures in the U.S. In absolute terms, RJ frequencies increased 140 percent (from 88,474 to 212,126 departures) since December 2000, when the small jets accounted for just 10 percent of all departures.
Smaller aircraft–specifically regional jets–are often blamed for delays in the National Airspace System, said Mesa Air Group chairman and CEO Jonathan Ornstein, in a recent speech at the Washington Aero Club, but he argues that “playing the blame game” takes focus off the need to expand airport capacity and continue to modernize the ATC system.
It had been a somewhat quiet year since the RAA staged its annual convention in St. Louis last May. Seemingly immune to the ills that have crippled their mainline counterparts for the past four years, the regional airlines finished last year with close to 30-percent traffic gains and average yields of 10 percent, leaving many wondering how long the major airlines would allow such an imbalance to continue.
Republic Airways became the second regional airline to claim a stake in US Airways last month when it inked a conditional deal to commit $125 million in equity and up to $110 million in asset-related financing.
A bankruptcy court judge has approved a deal between Air Wisconsin and US Airways that will see the Appleton, Wis.-based regional take an equity stake in the bankrupt major airline and fly up to 70 regional jets as US Airways Express. The arrangement centers on a $125 million loan from Air Wisconsin’s investment arm, Eastshore Aviation, that will convert to equity after US Airways’ planned emergence from bankruptcy this summer.
As the emirate of Dubai helds its biennial international airshow last month, travelers from anywhere but a major city were feeling first hand the pressures against a robust regional-airline industry in the Arab world.
The FAA’s Annual Aerospace Forecast always tries to paint the most optimistic picture of the industry that the agency’s statistics will support, and this year proved to be no exception. On the airline side of the house, the agency said that the number of passengers will return to pre-2001 levels this year.