American Airlines Places Order For 30 Regional Jets

Filed Under: American

In early April, American made a major announcement regarding the future of their fleet. Specifically, American ordered up to 75 Boeing 787s, they canceled their order for 22 Airbus A350s, and they deferred their order for 40 Boeing 737 MAXs. On one hand it’s great to see American further renew their longhaul fleet, though on the other hand I personally prefer the Airbus A350 to the Boeing 787, so I was sad to see the Airbus order be canceled.


American 787-9 at LAX

That wasn’t the end of American’s plane shopping spree. While not quite as exciting, Bloomberg reports that American has placed an order for 30 regional jets, including 15 Bombardier CRJ900s, as well as 15 Embraer EMB175 aircraft. In addition to the firm order for 30 aircraft, American has a further 30 options that they can exercise in the future if they’d like (15 from each manufacturer).

Both of these plane types feature 76 seats, including first class, an extra legroom economy section, and then economy. These planes will be flown by American’s wholly owned regional subsidiaries:

  • The CRJ900s will be flown by PSA Airlines
  • The EMB175s will be flown by Envoy Air

Deliveries are expected to begin next year, and will apparently primarily replace American’s smaller regional jets, which feature just one class of service. For example, PSA Airlines plans to retire several CRJ200s to make room for these new planes, which have much better economics on a per seat basis.

At the end of last year, American had 118 CRJ900s as well as 148 EMB175s across their regional carriers, and we can expect that number to grow even further.

Together, these two deals have a list price of just over $1.4 billion, though you can expect that American got a significant discount off those prices.

As many of you are probably aware, the reason the major US airlines operate these regional subsidiaries is to keep costs down. The pilots and flight attendants operating these flights are on significantly lower pay scales. The airlines are able to get away with this because of their scope clauses. I believe American’s agreement with pilots cuts off at 76 seat aircraft. In other words, if a plane has at most 76 seats, it can be operated by a regional carrier, while if it has more seats than that it has to be operated by mainline crews.

The intention there is that it protects the jobs of mainline pilots. The spirit of it is that these planes are supposed to be used to markets were operating bigger planes couldn’t make sense. One has to wonder how this is working out in practice, when American operates regional jets almost every hour between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and plenty of other major markets.

How different is the pay between the airlines? According to airlinepilotcentral.com, here are the hourly pilot pay differences between an American 737 and an Envoy Air EMB175:

  • A third year Envoy Air first officer makes $41 per hour
  • A third year American Airlines first officer makes $156 per hour
  • A third year Envoy Air captain makes $69 per hour
  • A third year American captain makes $252 per hour

While the CRJ900 and EMB175 have the same capacity, I far prefer the EMB175. The plane is an absolute joy to fly — the seats are wide, it’s fairly quiet, the cabin feels spacious, the windows are big, and the overhead bins are large. None of that is true on the CRJ900.


American EMB175 economy cabin


American EMB175 first class seats

I’d love to see American order some Bombardier CSeries aircraft, which offer a great passenger experience. Unfortunately those planes wouldn’t serve the same purpose — they’re larger, so they’d have to be operated directly by American, rather than a subsidiary. They’d be more of a 737/A319 replacement than a regional jet replacement.


Bombardier CSeries cabin

What do you make of American’s regional jet order?

Comments
  1. as tiny of a difference it is from a pax comfort perspective between E75 and E90, the E75 is still flown by regionals, so when IRROPS rears its ugly head, the 3 majors always first throw the regionals under the bus to protect their own on-time figures.

    (chalk it to some pilot union geniuses to put the SCOPE cut-off point RIGHT in the middle of a product line)

    and yes, i agree the CS100 is an amazing ride (did it once on LX VCE-ZRH). too bad we won’t be seeing them in either AA or UA colors anytime soon

  2. My thoughts are quite self centered.

    I fly DCA-BOS with some regularity, and am Lifetime Platinum. Now that 319’s have only 8 F seats, I can forget upgrades as there are well enough folks with higher status or who pay for F on a 319.

    12 F seats on a much smaller E90 pushes me up the upgrade list dramatically, and I do better than 50/50 on those flights.

  3. I avoid the AA 319 whenever possible due to the limited First Class upgrade opportunities, and I’m Executive Platinum. When I see an E75 or E90 outside my gate, I’m a happy passenger knowing it has lots of room and my roller board will fit nicely in the overhead bins.

  4. If the E175 and CRJ900 are so similar, why would they not just order one plane type?

  5. True, the E175 is superior – windows, overhead bins – but CRJ900 is A OK. i commute on regionals, CRJs, so long ago got a RIMOWA wheelie hard bag that just fits in the overhead even on a CRJ200. Anything to replace CRJ200s i’m all for. these 76 seat jets w/ first and prem econ spacing are A OK for smaller jets.

  6. @Lucky Do you want to acknowledge that you mixed up two different incidents in your post about AC incident at SFO, and hopefully clarify your post?

    A reader (Ian) wrote a comment on your post about AC incident at SFO and reminded you about this mix up, but you don’t seem to care.

  7. @Miz, wrong post. Also Lucky already acknowledged mix up and corrected.

    I can’t believe that airlines still order the CRJ. The EMB is so so much better.

  8. I prefer the CRJ over the ERJ. Cant help but feel the ERJ 170/175s are wobbly in the air and move along more axes than other airplanes if in bumpy air. Also not sure how the statement could be made that ERJ´s are quiter than CRJ´s… Wouldnt agree.

  9. @ Henry LAX

    “chalk it to some pilot union geniuses to put the SCOPE cut-off point RIGHT in the middle of a product line”

    I’m curious why we shouldn’t also chalk it up to some moronic airline managers who *agreed* to such a point?

    Or are managers just utterly powerless / cowardly in the face of the strong and fearless unions?

    I mean, shouldn’t we be giving credit where it’s due, and all?

  10. As someone else already said, anything to replace the CRJ200’s is fine in my book! Out of CMH, if I’m not flying SWA, it’s likely I’m flying on an RJ.

  11. @callum

    The way they’ve structured their ops.
    CRJ7/9 either share certifications with the CRJ200, or are just a quick course, not sure, ergo, saves costs.

    PSA is a CRJ2/7/9 operator exclusively. PSA will eventually receive all the CRJ700s Envoy has.
    Envoy will be an ERJ-145 / E-175 operator exclusively, shedding all 700 ops to PSA, not sure if they will transfer all or just most 140/145 to Piedmont (in house), ExpressJet, and Trans States.

    There are other things that come into play due to regional consolidation, but mainly, makes little sense to have mixed fleets, so an airline that already has CRJ200s has little incentive to choose the 175 over the 900.

    IIRC, Envoy wasn’t even supposed to get 175s from the original order, except that Republic couldn’t staff them, so AA gave them to Envoy (Compass also got 20).

  12. @Henry LAX

    You could put the scope clause at 120 and people will complain it’s in the middle of the C Series.

    76 works out just fine as it’s right at the upper end of regionals. The E190 ends up having a seat count about the same as the DC-9, so I don’t see where the problem is.

    There was also a scope clause (I believe it was at AA) that forbade regionals for flying planes bigger than 50 seats (even if they were flown for other carriers), so Chautauqua got sued because they flew 170s on behalf of Delta, and as a result, they had to transfer those to the then dormant Shuttle America certificate.

    There was also one that put limits on 50 seaters, leading to the ERJ-140 and the CRJ-440 (a 200 with a 44 seat cap -on paper only)

    Delta’s contract also limits how many planes per capacity, so there is a hard cap on how many 50, 69, 76 seaters. This is back again, now that SkyWest has some E-175LL (starting at N262SY -if anyone is curious), which are 175s paper-capped at 69, but that can be recertified to seat 76 if the market changes, or if the planes want to be sold.

    There’s also the scope clause that forbids regionals flying for one carrier (Delta?) from having planes bigger than 76, so the 80-seat 175s that Republic flew for US Airways (N101HQ-N138HQ) had to have one row taken out so they would seat 76 and stay within the limits, while they waited interior mods and a layout that matched the layout on all other AA 175s.

    None of this matters anyway, because right now, the 2nd gen 69/76 seat regionals are above scope clause MTOW, so the MRJ and E2 cannot be flown by US regionals until changes are made to the contract.

  13. This really does not make any sense at all.

    The C100 is larger and carries more passengers. There are only 2 pilots and the differential is only a total of $300 PER HOUR OF FLIGHT.

    With 100 passengers that’s $3 per hour of flight.

    I’ll bet the C100 is still selling at a big discount. And is more fuel efficient.

    This is so short sighted – makes one remember the board that only can think in small numbers discussing for hours the cost of pencils and writing off millions of dollars in purchases in minutes. You only debate the level you are familiar with and this is a totally dumb or political decision. Do I smell a Trump in the background of this decision?

  14. @Azamaraal

    C100 is scope claused. Regionals cannot go over 76 seats, the CS would have to be mainline, and we know how AA feels about mainline 100 seaters (E190 retirement starts next year).

    Where does Trump come in? CRJ is Canadian, E-175 is Brazilian. I suppose we can blame him for Chernobyl while we’re at it.

  15. If these are replacing the smaller regional jets, then this is a GREAT move. I love both the E-175 and CRJ900, both in Y and F.

  16. @Felipe

    How soon we forget? Who was the idiot who wanted to add a 300% surcharge to the C100/300 to be delivered to Delta? I think his name was trump. He got trumped by your trade organizations even though Boeing was trying to shut Bombardier down.

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