The regional jet takeover continues!
Atlantic Southeast Airlines, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of SkyWest, Inc, today launched a new partnership with United Airlines with scheduled service under the United Express code from Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD). ASA is starting United Express service with eight weekday flights from Chicago O’Hare, and 15 weekday flights from Washington Dulles, using eight newly refurbished 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200 regional jets. In May, ASA will add six CRJ200 aircraft to the United Express operation, bringing the average number of weekday flights to 90 and the total number of cities served by ASA in the United Express network to 21…
And lucky us, they’re CRJ-200s. (The worst of the regional jets, in my opinion)
On a serious note though, can anyone blame UA for increasingly relying on contract carriers like Atlantic Southeast and regional jets to handle stations that cannot viably support mainline service?
My friend Paul refuses to step on a regional jet, but I am extremely thankful for them. I’ve blogged before that regional jets are not as bad as people make them out to be and more fundamentally, they serve cities that otherwise would not be served.
Take Burbank for example, the closest airport to my home in Southern California. There used to be multiple mainline 737 or A319/320 flights to SFO and DEN each day. But in 2005-2007 I noticed something: every time I got on a mainline flight from Burbank (dozens of times), the plane was not just undersold, but there was often only 20-40 people on the plane. I can recall multiple trips between SFO and BUR in which I had the First Class cabin to myself.
In other words, UA was likely not profiting on that route, even though tickets generally were much pricier than buying a LAX-SFO ticket. So it came as no surprise when UA closed its mainline station and contracted out to Skywest at BUR last year. I still fly out of BUR quite a bit and there is still usually no more than 40-45 people on the aircraft–but that is a respectable load for a CRJ-200, not for an A320.
My only concern is that as we see more and more United Express flights from a variety of smaller carriers, service levels will be uneven and many passengers will not distinguish UX from UA. Consequently, I suggest UA take steps to beef up its regional jet service in three ways:
- Better train ground staff–especially at IAD
- Work with SkyWest, Republic, Go-Get and others to install ovens on larger regional jets so a proper (UA mainline style) meal can be served on long regional flights (like IAD-DFW or LAX-SEA for example)
- Introduce common uniforms among UX FAs. Trans States FAs already wear UA gate agent-style uniforms which look professional
That’s my two cents.
I have nothing against regional jets, but I dislike contract regional airlines and the relative lack of experience for captains and first officers compared to mainline. If I had a choice between mainline E170 and regional E170, I would choose mainline.
Now some DEN-YVR flights are on UX, not to mention all the LAX-YVR flights. They are “International.” No meals, no Margarita……
The UX CRJ-700, and E-170 are nice, and i prefer them compared to mainline on US. I have also come to enjoy the ERJ-145, but still have a hatred of the CRJ-200, but maybe I can experience the ASA version, and that it will impress me
@Rob: I understand your concerns, but safety just does not cross my mind when I travel on these regional jets (maybe I’m naive). I know the pilots and FAs are often not making more than Starbucks baristas, but there is still a standard they must meet–albeit a much easier standard for the regional carriers–to fly.
The Colgan crash was unnerving as are revelations that the pilots often get very little rest between flights, but I’m willing to accept the increased risk for the cheaper ticket prices.
@nelumbo: Good point–those two flights are even better examples than what I mentioned in my post. What a shame that “International First Class” passengers are offered a snack box (if the flight leaves during a meal window) on 3hr flight.
@mowogo: ASA is owned by SkyWest, so I don’t expect the ASA CRJ-200s to be any better.
Why in the world does UA insist on adding more CRJ-200s. I hate them.
I do wish they’d add some E170s, those are at least decent.
@Fozz: I agree, but adding more E170s would really tick off ALPA…
Fair point Matthew, I didn’t realize there were potential issues with ALPA.
The thing I can’t seem to understand is how this makes fiscal sense. It’s well documented that RJs are more expensive to operate per passenger. There is a reason Continental re-introduced props into the mix after abandoning them altogether a few years earlier.
Major routes such as SFO-SAN, SAN-DEN, EWR-ORD and LGA-ORD have not only seen a reduction in service, but RJs taking up some of the flying.
Has demand fallen so much in these markets where they’ve gone from 125-150 seats per flight to 50 along with a drop in frequences? All of my flights on those routes have always been full so I find myself miffed.
I realize with the retiring of the 737s they needed more capacity, but this doesn’t seem like the most financially responsible approach as it increases the per passenger cost.