Regional Service

By | September 11, 2006

Regional Jets currently operate approximately one-third of US domestic flights. The use of these jets has only increased over the last 5 years. While most regional jets in use today, such as the CRJ-100, the aircraft involved in the recent Comair disaster, and the ever popular Embraer 135 and 145 jets, both of which are 40-70 seater aircraft, are known for single-class, cramped service, due to the increased use of regional jets, the orders of these types of aircraft have peaked, and significant new orders are unlikely.

The new generation of regional aircraft, usually in the 70 to 100 seat range, offer more comfortable seating in line with full-sized aircraft. In some cases, these new Embraer 170s and 190s are more comfortable than seating on full-size aircraft and offer the option of business-class seating.

We agree with the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that smaller planes may better match demand on some routes. However, when we recall that in the past, certain cities were able to consistently fill full-sized aircraft, we wonder if the economics of the situation aren’t to blame. Airlines can charge more for seating on regional flights on routes lacking in competition, and often do.
Reasonable fare structures and frequent service can spark demand. Southwest proves that time and time again, with their ability to spark demand at airports most other carriers would relegate to regional status.

Fuel costs on regional jets are also high, as they were designed before the current fuel crisis. This has led to not only the interest in larger more efficient regional jets which would provide more seating for the fuel used, but the return of more fuel-efficient turboprops. The Bombardier Q400 is attracting a great deal of interest. A 68-78 seater aircraft which has more headroom and legroom than even Bombardiers regional jets, it boats of a noise suppression system to reduce the noise normally heard in turboprop aircraft and an average range of one to two hour flights, it could mean more efficiency than RJs on the flight distances it is designed for.

In the end, we hope the days of the smaller regional jets are numbered and as airlines can rid themselves of these liabilities, we will see new more comfortable 70-100 seat regional jets backed up by 40-80 seater turboprops for shorter routes. Because the way things are now, no one should be forced to take a flight of over two hours on a cramped regional jet…and too many people are forced to.

Author: Guru

Guru is the Editor of Flight Wisdom and a long time aviation enthusiast.