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Regional jets appear on endangered species list

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Registered Eye-Poker
Jul 20, 2004
Regional jets appear on endangered species list

By Marilyn Adams, USA TODAY
The sleek little 50-seat regional jet that changed the airline industry 14 years ago is now a falling star, the victim of changing economics.

Once prized by airlines for its speed and range — but disliked by many fliers for its cramped cabin — the 50-seater has seen demand plummet. Montreal-based Bombardier, which rolled out the first 50-seat jet in 1991 and is the leading maker, announced last week it will suspend production in January. Orders that once numbered in the hundreds have fallen to 55, Bombardier said.

Embraer of Brazil, the other leading maker, says it has 51 firm orders for its jets with 50 seats or fewer. Embraer declined comment on whether it plans to stop building those anytime soon.

Not long ago, airlines couldn't get enough RJs, which list for up to $24 million each.

Airlines snapped them up for service to midsize cities where traffic didn't justify larger jets.

They could carry more passengers farther and faster than noisy turboprop jets they replaced. Just two years ago, Bombardier had orders for 300. Bombardier says it doesn't know when or whether production will resume.

Small jets don't make economic sense on many routes anymore. Amid competition from low-fare carriers, regional jets don't command the high fares they once did. And small jets spread high fuel costs among too few seats.

"The day of the regional jet is over, in terms of demand," says airline consultant Mike Boyd. "They can't make money."

About 1,600 regional jets — mostly 50-seaters — are flying in the USA today. Boyd forecasts up to 200 will go to storage in the desert in the next few years.

UBS analyst Peter Rozenberg calls the outlook for RJs "unambiguously negative." He predicts a glut of 100 or so 50-seaters as a result of recent Chapter 11 filings by Delta Air Lines and Northwest.

Delta has said it plans to return 30 of its leased regional jets as part of its restructuring. Northwest placed a hold on an order for 13 new RJs for regional carrier Mesaba Airlines, which feeds passengers to Northwest. Mesaba followed Northwest into Chapter 11 last month.

Meanwhile, low-fare carrier Independence Air, which flies mostly 50-seat jets, has warned of a possible bankruptcy filing. This week, it quit flying 28 of its 58 regional jets. It sold or returned 29 earlier this year.

Rozenberg predicts RJs won't disappear, but some 50-seaters will give way to 70-seat regional jets, which are more comfortable and more economical for airlines to fly.

But as many 50-seaters leave the skies, Boyd says large and midsize cities where airlines have used them will see some non-stop routes disappear, fewer flights a day on other routes, and fewer airlines competing.

Regional carrier American Eagle recently stopped flying Norfolk, Va., to Boston, for example, because of slack demand, said spokesman Dave Jackson. That route is still served by regional jets flying for Delta and US Airways.

Find this article at: http://www.usatoday.com/money/biztravel/2005-11-01-small-jets-usat_x.htm
Up to 200 out of 1600 will go to desert storage in the next few years. That's like 12%. Endangered seems a little overdramatic.

don't worry. Regional jets are not endangered. They will just try to change the definition of a regional jet. Next think you know, the "regionals" will be flying 70-100 seat aircraft.
Take the Bus?

Any airplane can be economical if you just charge the appropriate fee for

Want a $79 ticket then take the bus!
Pay $350 and ride in a $25million dollar jet.

Mark my words when people start using greyhound they
WILL gladly pay the difference.
Trout said:
Two words: Cargo conversion....
I agree. Didn't FedEx start out with DA-20's? Those have to hold less and must be less efficient than a CRJ. I can only imagine someone rubbing their hands together at the thought of CRJ's being parked. There is a bunch of pilots flying them already trained, and fleet commonality would be easy with the 700 and 900.

On a side note, Spirit is offering $9 one way fares. Yeah, that's ZERO NINE dollars. Talk about charging appropriate prices!

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