Airlines Finally Figure Out People Hate 50-seater Regional Jets

By | September 5, 2010
Comair (Delta Connection) CRJ-100ER N941CA at ...
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We’ve never been particularly fond of fifty seater regional jets. They don’t have the comfort that we desire in an airline experience. It is not that we object to a smaller aircraft, but merely the idea that a smaller aircraft has to be a significantly less pleasant experience than a larger one.

Comair, a regional subsidiary of Delta, is shedding 53 of the CRJ-100 and CRJ-200 aircraft, which is 3/4s of its collection. Comair pioneered usage of the aircraft, and now airlines are looking to 70 or larger seat regional jets or even new turboprops. The planes may fly about twice as fast as a turboprop, but with increasing fuel costs, they are becoming less desirable.

Elsewhere, Horizon Airlines is looking for buyers for its CRJ-700 regional jets, and plans to transition to an all Q400 turboprop fleet. Originally, Horizon only acquired the Q400s when it couldn’t get deliveries of the CRJ-700.

Turboprop aircraft have lower fuel consumption and can operate from shorter runways than regional jets, but have higher engine maintenance costs, shorter ranges and lower cruising speeds, but the technology continues to improve. The Q400 boasts a quieter, faster, and more comfortable experience than its predecessors. It burns 30-40% less fuel than a regional jet of the same size. ATR is boasting even more fuel efficiencies for it 70-seat 600 series turboprops below the popular Bombardiers.

Over the last decade, we’ve seen routes lose mainline service in favor of these 50-seat uncomfortable aircraft. Many of these routes don’t have demand for full sized, 100-200 seater jets. But a comfortable, yet smaller aircraft can certainly work in these markets, many of which are within the range of even more fuel-efficient turboprops. And a smaller, more fuel efficient aircraft could make it more cost effective to have additional daily departures on those routes as well.

Aviation consultant Michael Boyd gets the award for best quote about the 50-seat regional jets, stating, “The next stop is the Budweiser factory because that’s all they’re good for.” Well, let’s open up a can and drink to that.