American Airlines is going outside of their American Eagle subsidiary to increase regional jet flying.
They have a new 12-year agreement with Republic Airlines for 53 76-seat Embraer-175 planes. (The new pilots union contract lets them grow the regional fleet in this manner.)
Republic currently flies 15 Embraer-140 planes for American out of Chicago as Chautauqua Airlines.
The new larger regional jets will be coming into service 2-3 per month starting in the middle of the year and fully deployed by the first quarter of 2015.
American currently deploys its Embraers with coach seating only, and Bombardier CRJ-700s which could otherwise fit 70 coach seats as 54 coach and 9 in first class.
These larger ERJ175s will have 12 first class seats and 64 coach seats and will be painted with the new American Eagle livery.
Configuring the ERJ175s with 76 seats which is well below maximum capacity told me that they had to also be offering Main Cabin Extra seating, and I’ve confirmed that indeed they will offer 20 Main Cabin Extra seats (5 rows).
There’s no announcement about initial routes these planes will serve yet, but they will be primarily deployed out of Chicago.
Presumably there will be some replacement of existing mainline jets. With a good percentage of first class seats, and given that I find the aircraft reasonably comfortable despite a few less inches of legroom (plus a very healthy overall percentage of first class and main cabin extra additional legroom seats versus regular coach!), I see the biggest downside of the change the likelihood that mainline flights would have offered wireless internet while the absence of any mention of internet in the press release suggests to me that the regional jets won’t be equipped with the same.