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Regional jets appear on endangered species list

pb4ufly

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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.
 

Purpledog

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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.

hallelujah. The pinched nerve in my neck from trying to see out the window on my last DH has almost healed.
 

TWA Dude

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Didn't somebody once write the same thing about the 19 passenger planes?
 

Mr Hat

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Bad news for the chiropractic industriy
LOL! Not just for the passengers!
Didn't somebody once write the same thing about the 19 passenger planes?

Maybe but this time I thinnk it's true. The 50 seat jets were great for legacy carrier prices in the late 90's but they don't do well in competition with LCC's which is what the legacy's have been doing for the last few years. The E170 and 190 (mostly the 190) is a far superior airplane with a first class section, very roomy coach seats and burning only a little more fuel to carry more pax.

Here's my take on it, the ERJ and CRJ are "fad" airplanes. The legacy's tend to follow each other around. A few years back the big "fad" was to have a good size RJ fleet so everyone bought up all these RJ's that do well in a certain niche but not so well when the economics change. Remember the last Fad? The 747, everyone HAD to have a few 747's....they were great in their certian niche but not so good when the economics changed.
The one airline that doesn't follow the crowd never had 747's or RJ's, Southwest. I think the best suited airplanes for domestic travel (that have been proven) is somewhere between the small 737's to the small 757's. However, the E190's will probably do very well in this market. The 170's just remind me of the E135's which my company just wants to get rid of at this point because they only work on a small part of the E145 system. They burn the same amount of gas but carry less passengers.

You'll never see the 50 seat jets go away but I'd be willing to bet that they are reduced and replaced by the E190's. Now one can only hope that those 190s go to the legacy carriers where they belong.
 

smellthejeta

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As far as fads go, I know that at ORD, Eagle has been an all-RJ carrier for a long time. When ACA opened up their ORD hub, they were an all-RJ carrier to compete with Eagle. I know Whisky phased out the D328's over time. I think the whole United system was supposed to be "all jet" before Eagle.
 

Lear70

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I disagree.

There will ALWAYS be a need for a 50-seat jet on some short- to medium-length routes into small capacity cities such as Pellston, MI and Coeur de Lane, ID during peak seasons, just as there will always be a need for 19 seat turboprops operating into short hops (less than 30 minutes in a jet) into small cities.

If you give up these aircraft, you give up these passengers (what airline will send a 70- or 90- seat jet into a market where only 20-30 people will board with ticket prices where they are?). Someone else will come in to pick up the slack, they always do.

Sometimes carriers will operate these flights at a loss in order to connect them to long-haul domestic or international routes where they make the profit back.

I don't see them buying NEW aircraft and I do see production decreasing, but even with reduced scope and companies like Mesa and "Newco" flying 70 and 90 seaters, some 50 seaters and 19-30 seat turboprops will remain...
 

F/O

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Good news. I'd love to see the 50 seat "replacement jet" go extinct.

And, lest we forget, like him or hate him, Mike Boyd was RIGHT.
 

Heavy Set

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Lear70 said:
I disagree.

There will ALWAYS be a need for a 50-seat jet on some short- to medium-length routes into small capacity cities such as Pellston, MI and Coeur de Lane, ID during peak seasons, just as there will always be a need for 19 seat turboprops operating into short hops (less than 30 minutes in a jet) into small cities.

If you give up these aircraft, you give up these passengers (what airline will send a 70- or 90- seat jet into a market where only 20-30 people will board with ticket prices where they are?). Someone else will come in to pick up the slack, they always do.

Sometimes carriers will operate these flights at a loss in order to connect them to long-haul domestic or international routes where they make the profit back.

I don't see them buying NEW aircraft and I do see production decreasing, but even with reduced scope and companies like Mesa and "Newco" flying 70 and 90 seaters, some 50 seaters and 19-30 seat turboprops will remain...

I agree with that. 50-seat jets will only be profitable on non-LCC competitive routes like SLC-Pasco or ATL-HPN that can support higher nonstop fares. Too bad business travelers will have to suffer on these more convenient, non-competitive routes. After 2 hours on a CRJ/ERJ my back starts to ache...
 

Jurassic Jet

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TWA Dude said:
Didn't somebody once write the same thing about the 19 passenger planes?

Hey, maybe they will fire up the production lines again and we will she shiny new Metro's, Jetstreams, and Bandit's again!:laugh:
 

theo

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I don't think anyone disagrees that the cost of the RJ's is too high for the revenue they can produce. Obviously that means somebody is gonna take a bath as RJ's get parked. But follow on a little longer and what will you see? RJ's making a comeback at half or less of their previous lease payments. All of a sudden airlines get interested again as they save 60 or 70 thousand per month per aircraft. The original leaseholders take it in the shorts...some Regional airlines take some huge losses but the aircraft will ultimatly be flying again, seems pretty likely to me.
 

FlyBoeingJets

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theo said:
I don't think anyone disagrees that the cost of the RJ's is too high for the revenue they can produce. Obviously that means somebody is gonna take a bath as RJ's get parked. But follow on a little longer and what will you see? RJ's making a comeback at half or less of their previous lease payments. All of a sudden airlines get interested again as they save 60 or 70 thousand per month per aircraft. The original leaseholders take it in the shorts...some Regional airlines take some huge losses but the aircraft will ultimatly be flying again, seems pretty likely to me.

How much of the CASM is lease cost? I'm thinking mx and fuel aren't spread out on enough seats.

Look at JetBlues forecast costs on the 100 seaters. Even with 50 seat pay rates they will be at least one cent more on the CASM than the A320's.
 

Jetjockey

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F/O said:
Good news. I'd love to see the 50 seat "replacement jet" go extinct.

To make room on the ramp for all those 70-100 seat "RJs".

Stop the insanity.
 

VVJM265

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Jurassic Jet said:
Hey, maybe they will fire up the production lines again and we will she shiny new Metro's, Jetstreams, and Bandit's again!:laugh:

There ya go!
 
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