The experiment in discount-fare, 50-seat RJ flying known as Independence Air (formerly Atlantic Coast Airlines) ended once and for all when the company transported its last passenger on January 5, a year and a half after it severed ties with former mainline partner United Airlines.
The pilots of Northwest Airlines have threatened to strike if management proceeds with plans to launch a new regional airline as proposed in a newsletter distributed to the company’s 34,000 employees last month. Tentatively named NewCo, the new unit would replace Northwest’s DC-9s with one hundred five 77- to 100-seat jets flying as a Northwest Airlink affiliate.
ExpressJet began shopping in earnest for a new mainline partner last month as Continental Airlines prepared to ask for bids from other regional airlines to fly roughly a quarter of the Continental Express network. Continental formally notified ExpressJet that it planned to withdraw 69 of the 274 Embraer regional jets from their capacity purchase agreement after the sides failed to reach terms on a new service contract.
Northwest Airlines has extended the deadline for regional partner Pinnacle Airlines to pay another $21.7 million in aircraft sublease security deposits to April 15, as the sides continue to negotiate the terms of “their future business relationship.” In September Northwest requested that Pinnacle pay the additional funds by March 1, but the Memphis-based regional has refused.
A tentative labor accord reached last month between Northwest Airlines and the Air Line Pilots Association includes scope-clause language that would allow the airline to establish a new regional subsidiary, but only to fly airplanes certified to carry between 51 and 76 seats.
Northwest Airlines’ plans for a new regional subsidiary all hinge upon a May 3 tally of votes cast by its pilots on a new tentative contract that would allow the unit, called Compass Airlines, to fly regional jets certified to hold up to 76 seats. Northwest hopes to launch the operation next month with a single 50-seat CRJ200 flying twice daily between Minneapolis and Washington Dulles International Airport.
Although it will mark the formal market introduction of the last and largest E-Jet, the scheduled July certification of the 108-seat Embraer 195 by no means signals the end of the company’s work on the series. In a way, it represents a beginning, as Embraer can now turn its full attention to building production efficiency and, more important to its customers, adding facility and reliability to the airplanes themselves.
There’s no denying that Bombardier’s commercial aircraft business has reached a crossroads, and that a still ailing airline industry will dictate the direction it ultimately turns.
While at first it seemed hard to reconcile the rather dark and anxious mood of last year’s RAA Convention in Cincinnati with double-digit profit margins and record revenues, by the end of the three-day event it became clear to everyone what regional airline executives had seen coming for years.
Delta Air Lines looked to become the latest U.S. carrier to stretch its scope-clause limits when Air Line Pilots Association leadership agreed to allow regional jets certified to carry between 71 and 76 seats to fly under the Delta Connection brand starting next year.