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.