Delta Connection Adds Swanky 50-Seat CRJ-550 To Fleet

Delta Connection Adds Swanky 50-Seat CRJ-550 To Fleet

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While details remain limited as of now, it looks like Delta Connection will soon start flying some very spacious regional jets, as first flagged by AirlineGeeks.

SkyWest will fly CRJ-550s for Delta Connection

Delta has updated the fleet page of its website to reflect the seat map for a new aircraft type. Specifically, the airline soon plans to start flying the CRJ-550, in partnership with regional carrier SkyWest.

The first thing to understand is that the CRJ-550 is only sort of a real aircraft. When you look at Bombardier’s regional jets, the common variants are the CRJ-200, CRJ-700, and CRJ-900, with the difference being the size of the jets.

In reality, the CRJ-550 is simply a rebranded version of the CRJ-700. While the CRJ-700 can potentially seat 76 passengers, the CRJ-550 is the same aircraft, just with a lot fewer seats. Delta’s CRJ-550 is expected to feature 50 seats, comprised of:

  • 10 first class seats
  • 20 extra legroom economy seats
  • 20 standard economy seats
Delta Connection CRJ-550 seat map

Unlike all other versions of the CRJ, this aircraft has closets where carry-on bags can be stored, so that’s awesome for passengers.

Delta Connection CRJ-550 specifications

Why would an airline intentionally configure a regional jet in such an inefficient configuration? Well, the CRJ-550 is intended to circumvent the scope clause that mainline pilots at Delta have. It’s standard that the pilot contracts at the major airlines limit the total number of regional jets that can be flying, though that total limit typically applies to regional jets with over 50 seats.

By having regional jets with exactly 50 seats, Delta can increase the number of regional jets that it flies, without violating its scope clause.

Delta isn’t the first airline to do this. In 2019, United Express became the first airline to operate the CRJ-550, with subsidiary GoJet being the carrier flying these planes. Now Delta is following United’s lead. GoJet has a total of 36 aircraft in this configuration.

Where are these CRJ-550s coming from?

SkyWest is a regional airline that operates flights on behalf of the regional subsidiaries of all of the “big three” US carriers, so the airline flies for American Eagle, Delta Connection, and United Express. Over time, the contracts between the major carriers and regional carriers change.

SkyWest recently had 19 CRJ-700s end their flying contract with American Eagle, so they became available. During a recent earnings call, the company confirmed that those jets will transition to become CRJ-550s. It wasn’t stated which airline the planes would fly for, but that’s now pretty clear.

CRJ-700s are being converted into CRJ-550s

What will Delta Connection do with these aircraft?

Of course the short answer is that Delta is the world’s most premium airline, and the demand for Delta’s premium products is always through the roof. So Delta could fly these planes between Tulsa and Salt Lake City at 5AM on Sunday mornings and have a waiting list of people begging to enjoy Delta’s premium experiences. 😉

In all honesty, we should find out soon enough what Delta has planned for these jets, as they’re expected to enter service this summer. Obviously Delta wants to expand regional capacity, but can’t violate its scope clause with pilots. So there’s talk of one of two things happening:

  • Could Delta just fly these planes in low demand or high frequency markets with strong premium demand, where it wants a competitive product?
  • Could Delta fly these aircraft in Essential Air Service (EAS) markets, where it doesn’t want to use planes that count toward the scope clause limit, but still wants to add service?

We should find out soon enough…

Delta is following United’s lead with the CRJ-550

Bottom line

Delta is expected to soon start flying the CRJ-550, as SkyWest will fly the aircraft on behalf of Delta Connection. This is essentially the same plane as the CRJ-700, except with lower capacity. Expect lots of premium seats, closets for luggage, and an all-around pleasant experience.

The only reason this plane exists is because of the scope clause that mainline pilots get, as this is the most practical way for airlines to add regional capacity without violating that.

What do you make of Delta Connection adding the CRJ-550 to its fleet?

Conversations (62)
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  1. Goforride Gold

    I can't figure out what routes DL would have that are now flown with CR7's, up from CRJ's, that consistently board fewer than 50 people and would need 19 planes.

  2. Goforride Guest

    19 is a lot of planes given the number of EAS routes DL has. Perhaps some will end up flying for Contour.

  3. Timo Diamond

    These CRJ planes are just relics. I'll take an ERJ any day. Wing mounted engines provide a smoother ride and esthetically, these CRJ700s are unfortunate looking. Their elongated scale with out of proportion sized wings look ridiculous. Sure, DL is ultra premium and makes loads of cash, great... doesn't entice plenty of people to set foot on these ugly dinosaurs.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      nobody chooses a plane based on looks. Few people even know what plane they are flying, let alone make purchase decisions based on it.

      The MD80 was not exactly "a looker" but it was very popular for a season and didn't look much different than the stretched CRJs.

    2. AD Diamond

      @Timo, I don't fly United much and I'm not a fan of United, but I flew one of United's version of this plane and I have nothing but good things to say about that experience. The cabinets were a joy. With 50 people on the plane there was room for everyone's stuff. No gate checks. No carry on tetris. And the F seats were pretty comfy, especially on the 1 site of the 1-2 config.

  4. Cory Cesar Guest

    I want to ride on an aircraft with a single cheesed-off SkyWest flight attendant left alone to serve 50 passengers and a single lavatory in the rear of the aircraft. I'll have a decent seat, and that's about it. Throw in a three-hour sector, and it's well... PREMIUM (near CRJ-200 experience in a CRJ-700 airframe).

  5. Chris Guest

    I really hope this means DL will add back the CID-DTW route, which was canceled in 2022 as they retired the CRJ-200s.

  6. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

    Delta caving into Sky West. That’s what this is about. You have markets that previously were exclusively CRJ-200s and for a year or so have been 700s and 900s. Some of those markets are full every flight. But Sky West doesn’t want to staff two flight attendants and doesn’t want to provide service, especially to comfort plus. Reducing seats from 70 to 50 and eliminating 1 flight attendant means only first-class passengers — if they’re...

    Delta caving into Sky West. That’s what this is about. You have markets that previously were exclusively CRJ-200s and for a year or so have been 700s and 900s. Some of those markets are full every flight. But Sky West doesn’t want to staff two flight attendants and doesn’t want to provide service, especially to comfort plus. Reducing seats from 70 to 50 and eliminating 1 flight attendant means only first-class passengers — if they’re lucky — will get any kind of service on flights of 45 minutes to 1 hour in the Great Lakes and Midwest. Even first-class routinely doesn’t get pre-departure beverages and often wine and beer is not catered in sufficient number for an in-flight service. This is really unfortunate. Delta should have held the line and ditched Sky West. Endeavor and Republic, the other two carriers for Delta Connection, do a much, much better job than Sky West.

    1. Rick Vanover Guest

      You hit it right. This is a one flight attendant cabin I suspect with 50 passengers max. This may have a nice cabin equipment experience but service will suffer, probably in the back the most but likely up front too. I think the perimeter of the no service will be longer. But make no mistake, we all must not forget CRJ-200s LOL.

    2. Chris Guest

      The routs these planes mostly fly are typically an hour or less. Who cares about service on board? For those of us who live in smaller markets which lost routes when delta stopped flying the CRJ-200, I can assure you I care more about having the route available than I do about getting served drinks on a 1 hour flight.

    3. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

      Delta didn't cut a lot of routes after eliminating the 200. Most of the cuts in the last four years were during covid and the pilot shortage. And most of the cuts were Sky West, not Delta.

    4. Chris Guest

      For those of us who live in smaller markets which lost routes when delta stopped flying the CRJ-200, I can assure you I care more about having the route available than I do about getting served drinks on a 1 hour flight.

    5. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

      It's all Sky West. They are a horrible operation. From service to staff to morale. Everything. They allow staff to look like hobos with worn-out uniforms or uniforms that look like they were bought at a second-hand shop. Endeavor and Republic on the whole do a noticeably better job and seem to have much, much higher standards.

    6. Tim Dunn Diamond

      no, it isn't about staffing. If it is part of a capacity purchase agreement, the parent airline pays for the cost anyway.
      DL justifies a 3rd flight attendant for just 9 or 10 more passengers on a 717 or A220-100 or a 4th for 10 or fewer more passengers on a 737-800 or A320.

    7. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

      Oh, it absolutely is about staffing. Sky West is the same airline that wanted to cut staff costs by doing public charters with less-experienced and lower-paid pilots. Don't defend Sky West, Tim.

    8. Tim Dunn Diamond

      pilots and flight attendants are not the same thing.
      And the origin of the CRJ550 is with United that wanted to skirt its scope rules for United pilots. IOW, UA, not SKYW, wanted to cut labor costs.
      DL is simply going after the ex-AA CRJ700sto allow SKYW to fly them for DL so that DL can fly them on routes that DL has been unable to serve, esp. EAS markets.

      Your narrative doesn't fit w/ facts.

  7. Luis Melendez Guest

    The 550 isn’t because of the scope clause at Delta. The 550 is replacing the recently retired CRJ 200’s that SkyWest operated for Delta. The reason they are 550’s instead of 700’s is because those 200’s flew to markets including EAS markets that didn’t support the additional capacity, so a 50 seater is optimal. Delta wanted to offer premium cabins in all aircraft thus the reason they brought in the 550 to replace the 200’s....

    The 550 isn’t because of the scope clause at Delta. The 550 is replacing the recently retired CRJ 200’s that SkyWest operated for Delta. The reason they are 550’s instead of 700’s is because those 200’s flew to markets including EAS markets that didn’t support the additional capacity, so a 50 seater is optimal. Delta wanted to offer premium cabins in all aircraft thus the reason they brought in the 550 to replace the 200’s. They have a 50 seat aircraft now with First and Confort Plus.

  8. Tim Dunn Diamond

    If the topic is pageviews, Gary over at VFTW offers a premium product and gets premium reader interaction. The returns at OMAAT over the past week have been rather anemic.

    Ben did get it right 5 years ago when he noted that the CRJ550 is a semi-real aircraft with high costs; in fact, it has the highest costs per seat mile of any aircraft in the US airline fleet.
    He also noted in this...

    If the topic is pageviews, Gary over at VFTW offers a premium product and gets premium reader interaction. The returns at OMAAT over the past week have been rather anemic.

    Ben did get it right 5 years ago when he noted that the CRJ550 is a semi-real aircraft with high costs; in fact, it has the highest costs per seat mile of any aircraft in the US airline fleet.
    He also noted in this article that UA premiered the type to get around scope rules; UA's network since its merger with CO has been heavily built around the 50 seat RJ - without first or economy plus cabins - which meant UA had the lowest penetration in non-hub markets outside of its hubs and the highest percentage of its domestic flights operated by regional jets of any US airline. United NEXT, if Boeing could EVER deliver the MAXs that United ordered, is an attempt to fix UA's domestic weakness.

    Using a high cost semi-real jet was only necessary because United, like American, chose not to acquire a small mainline jet as Delta did with over 125 Boeing 717s and A220-100s, even though United had the same regional jet scope clause as Delta. It isn't hard to see why United chose the CRJ550 - which is built around CRJ700s which became unwanted compared to E175s and CRJ900s with fewer large RJs than either AA or DL and an unwillingness to add a small mainline jet.

    Delta, then clearly picked up the CRJ550s from Skywest not for their economics or their superior passenger experience - the A220 runs circles around any RJ - but for strategic reasons.

    Those strategic reasons including neutralizing AA's focus on small cities and in picking these CRJ550s so that UA cannot.
    Given that AA has hundreds more large RJs than DL and AA employees seem to let their employer get by with it and UA can't and won't get anywhere near the aircraft it needs for United NEXT, DL's move is to add 2 cabin aircraft that would otherwise benefit other carriers.

    The use will be in high cost essential air service markets - the government just expanded the program - where the costs are offset by government subsidies.

    And Delta undoubtedly also got commitments from SkyWest to not only staff these additional aircraft but also the aircraft that SKYW is supposed to fly for DL but has not been able to because of staffing.

    DL said on its earnings call that up to 100 of its contracted regional jets are flying less-than-optimal schedules so these aircraft represent a significant addition of DL's domestic capacity along w/ the other RJs.

    DL's addition of these aircraft is competitive.

    As for which airline is the most premium, DL flew fewer seat miles than AA or UA but generated a profit 3X larger than AA and almost twice as much as UA.

    The definition of premium has to mean getting more revenue than your competitors and making more money in the process. Delta clearly fits that definition.

    1. Jim Baround Guest

      So just to confirm, this is a poor aircraft with bad economics, and Delta is picking them up to keep United from getting their hands on more aircraft with poor economics.

    2. Tim Dunn Diamond

      That would be a key part of my takeaway.
      But given that the internet is full of people that are convinced that Delta loses money in Boston, New York, Los Angeles and Seattle, why should 19 little RJs get in the way of all the profits more than United that Delta gets?

    3. Jeremy Guest

      Believe it or not I agree with your analysis and that Delta is basically preventing United from having the opportunity to add regional feed to its hubs to add domestic market share albeit at low margins.

      Ironically this was the exact same thing you were complaining about in the LA threads on how Delta was being boxed out of the Pacific in LA by United which added many routes at low LFs making Delta's almost...

      Believe it or not I agree with your analysis and that Delta is basically preventing United from having the opportunity to add regional feed to its hubs to add domestic market share albeit at low margins.

      Ironically this was the exact same thing you were complaining about in the LA threads on how Delta was being boxed out of the Pacific in LA by United which added many routes at low LFs making Delta's almost entire long-haul network from LA being money losing. It's simply how most airlines operate and is why it's very unlikely barring a massive shift that Delta will be able to create a viable Pacific hub in LA - just wait 3-4 years once AA's LA expansion completes, they get back a chunk of gates, and their financial position improves to join the fray.

    4. Tim Dunn Diamond

      no, I wasn't complaining that DL's LAX network was money-losing. I was noting that DL will pull out of or reduce capacity in markets to avoid losses while UA clearly is willing to fly much more of its network at a loss in order to pursue size; given that DL and UA have very similar passenger revenues per seat mile, the two should make similar profits other than for the non-transportation revenue where DL does...

      no, I wasn't complaining that DL's LAX network was money-losing. I was noting that DL will pull out of or reduce capacity in markets to avoid losses while UA clearly is willing to fly much more of its network at a loss in order to pursue size; given that DL and UA have very similar passenger revenues per seat mile, the two should make similar profits other than for the non-transportation revenue where DL does much better.

      and AA won't be back on the west coast. They walked away, they can't compete for domestic corporate revenue even in large competitive markets; they certainly can't break into the highly competitive west coast to Asia/Pacific market.

      And AA along w/ WN and DL will compete agggressively to limit UA's domestic growth as part of UA next. It will be much easier for DL to grow internationally than for UA to succeed at growing domestically.

    5. Paper Boarding Pass Guest

      There's plenty of E170-175 on the open market.
      These would be a vast improvement over any CRJ, no matter how you configure them.
      It's like putting lipstick on a pig....it isn't going to make it any better.

    6. Tim Dunn Diamond

      AA, DL and UA all have scope clauses that limit the number of large regional jets such as the E170/75s - so, no, there are not opportunities to fly a lot more large regional jets at US airlines.
      and, Julia, I participate because I have things to say that others value which is why I am Diamond on this site.

    7. AD Diamond

      @Tim Dunn, I'm not going to engage in a discussion about whether what you say is valuable. But, I will point out that while I can't find it documented, I don't think that you got diamond status through likes. I think it's based on the number of comments you post. However, if you got it through likes, the bar is pretty low, as I'm diamond too and I doubt that I've had loads of likes....

      @Tim Dunn, I'm not going to engage in a discussion about whether what you say is valuable. But, I will point out that while I can't find it documented, I don't think that you got diamond status through likes. I think it's based on the number of comments you post. However, if you got it through likes, the bar is pretty low, as I'm diamond too and I doubt that I've had loads of likes. I just don't turn up and post that often.

      I will say that it is true that people engage with what you say, which could also be a metric. Based on the comments though, not all or even most of your engagement is from people who like what you have to say. No one can say you don't keep things intersting.

    8. Julia Guest

      And yet, you keep returning to comment...funny, that.

  9. Exit Row Seat Guest

    Sorry, but any seat on a CRJ is miserable.
    The only decent seats are the first row just behind 1st class.
    Plenty of leg room, complimentary service, early off the tooth paste tube.

  10. Greg Guest

    Delta “is the world’s most premium airline”?! No words….

    1. Zain Guest

      It was clearly tongue in cheek man

  11. Tim Done Guest

    The mere fact it has the Delta logo already makes it a far superior product. Employees of Delta are the best of any airline for which people are willing to pay a premium for. Because Delta can command premium revenue, it's earnings exceed United, who by the way stole the idea of this jet from the industry leader and from whom all good things flow, Delta

  12. sunviking82 Guest

    It was dumb when UA did it and even more dumb that DL is copying it. Cost per passenger is off the charts. At time when we are looking to reduce carbon, and DL claims to be leading the charge (which they are not BTW. . 767 and 757, . .need I saw more). I don't want to crame people in like Spirit or Ryan Air a plan that can economically carry 65-70 passengers with 50 makes no sense. Descending. . .That's DL.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      you do realize that Delta flies several hundred LESS regional jets than AA or UA?

      There is no such thing as a NEO or MAX RJ - at least in US carrier fleets because pilot scope doesn't allow them. ALL RJs have poor fuel efficiency and not a single RJ has as much personal space as any mainline aircraft in DL's fleet.

      And Delta dumped the 777 during the pandemic and the 772 is the...

      you do realize that Delta flies several hundred LESS regional jets than AA or UA?

      There is no such thing as a NEO or MAX RJ - at least in US carrier fleets because pilot scope doesn't allow them. ALL RJs have poor fuel efficiency and not a single RJ has as much personal space as any mainline aircraft in DL's fleet.

      And Delta dumped the 777 during the pandemic and the 772 is the LEAST fuel efficient widebody in the US carrier widebody fleet.

      There are many good reasons why Delta's system fuel efficiency is 6.5% higher than AA and UA's - which is similar despite fairly significant differences in AA and UA's fleet.

  13. James Guest

    Another reminder of the crime of the scope clause. How are there no racketeering or anti trust consequences for this I just don’t understand. It fails the consumer wellfare test!

  14. FlyerDon Guest

    I must be missing something. Isn’t this a SkyWest airplane being operated by a SkyWest crew, with a Delta Connection paint job? Where does the world famous Delta Premium service enter the picture?

  15. MD Guest

    Now Ben has a reason to fly to a wonderful selection of Minnesota cities like International Falls, Brainerd, Bemidji, and Hibbing.

  16. UA-NYC Diamond

    It figures that Delta would ride the coattails of the US’ most premium airline, United, here with this config

  17. Dave Guest

    Seems like United made a pretty big investment that has worked well for them from day-one, as the two major issues 50-seaters have had are legroom and the ability to fit everyone’s carry-on luggage into the cabin. No more waiting at the plane’s door for the airline to unload the luggage hold. I wish Delta would hurry up and add more comfort+ seating to all of their planes. If people are beating down the door...

    Seems like United made a pretty big investment that has worked well for them from day-one, as the two major issues 50-seaters have had are legroom and the ability to fit everyone’s carry-on luggage into the cabin. No more waiting at the plane’s door for the airline to unload the luggage hold. I wish Delta would hurry up and add more comfort+ seating to all of their planes. If people are beating down the door to “experience” Delta’s “premium” seating, why is Delta not more aggressive about having enough “premium” product to sell? Reducing total capacity should apply upward pressure for all fares, and Delta doesn’t have to beat their planes to death by overstuffing them with cheap seats, would it not? Higher yields are a good thing, right? While we’re at it, how about FIVE abreast in Comfort+? You just might find a whole new opportunity for even more higher-yielding seats. “Less” CAN be “more”! Make flying FUN again so we all don’t have to wedge under our seating neighbor’s armpit!

    1. AD Diamond

      @Dave, the problem with comfort+ is that it's a free, time of purchase upgrade for Plats and Diamonds. That means that Delta rarely actually sells any seats in domestic comfort+ (I can't speak to international). I don't know how much bigger it would have to get for them to actually sell a significant number of seats. Maybe in 2025 when they've culled the elite herd? And comfort+ is actually pretty sucky anyway. It was decent...

      @Dave, the problem with comfort+ is that it's a free, time of purchase upgrade for Plats and Diamonds. That means that Delta rarely actually sells any seats in domestic comfort+ (I can't speak to international). I don't know how much bigger it would have to get for them to actually sell a significant number of seats. Maybe in 2025 when they've culled the elite herd? And comfort+ is actually pretty sucky anyway. It was decent when they first introduced it, but now the legroom is hard to see. If I'm stuck in the back I'd just as soon be in an AA exit row (and I'm a DL 3MM).

  18. JP Guest

    Y'all are acting like you actually want "that person" to be here and post something. Why even bother when you dislike him that much.

    1. Ray-Ray Guest

      I don't dislike him. In fact I feel that the article is incomplete without a comment from TD.

    2. Eskimo Guest

      We love him.
      We can't get enough of him.
      He literally gave "premium" a new meaning.

    3. Scudder Diamond

      Im sure Ben actually loves that widget-obsessed incel. His comments create flame wars that drive up web traffic, which means more revenue for the blog.

  19. bruh Guest

    Since this post is related to Delta, I am waiting to read the comments of one specific reader!

  20. Joseph Guest

    If I needed that 5AM flight from SLC to TUL, I would be very happy for this aircraft.

  21. GBOAC Diamond

    Doesn't this reduction in seats also eliminate the need for a second flight attendant?

    1. S00 Guest

      Yes, UA Express only staff 1 flight attendant for CRJ550. I don't see why this will be different here

    2. Stanley C Diamond

      But then again it is the world’s most premium airline so do not be surprised if it has two flight attendants. :)

    3. N1120A Guest

      Yes. That is a factor that does help the economics of the layout a bit.

  22. JJ Guest

    What do you mean luggage "closets"? Any example you can point me to?

    1. BenjaminKohl Diamond

      Look in the included video

    2. Hoosier in Paradise Member

      I'd call them lockers.

  23. Eli Guest

    I think you have to lower your expectations with Delta, since you are planning to review them soon, I don't want you to be disappointed.

  24. Heath Johnson Guest

    Delta, being "the most premium airline in the world" ...! I like your sarcasm. :)

  25. digital_notmad Diamond

    Oof, painful to think about all the revenue DL management left on the table by procrastinating on making this move for so long.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Oof, painful to think about all the revenue America left on the table by all those union clauses.

  26. ZTravel Gold

    There are a lot of obvious references in this blog! BEN you made a mistake saying that Delta is following what United has done… it was actually Delta’s idea but Delta didn’t want to implement it until it was the right time to do so from a business perspective ;) I’m here for the comments!!

    For sure the premium service that Delta offers must justify the $735 price tag for a flight from TPA to MIA!

  27. Never In Doubt Guest

    I'm glad I'm here to note the genius of Delta in doing this, because otherwise who would?

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Never In Doubt Guest

I'm glad I'm here to note the genius of Delta in doing this, because otherwise who would?

7
ZTravel Gold

There are a lot of obvious references in this blog! BEN you made a mistake saying that Delta is following what United has done… it was actually Delta’s idea but Delta didn’t want to implement it until it was the right time to do so from a business perspective ;) I’m here for the comments!! For sure the premium service that Delta offers must justify the $735 price tag for a flight from TPA to MIA!

4
digital_notmad Diamond

Oof, painful to think about all the revenue DL management left on the table by procrastinating on making this move for so long.

3
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