American Airlines customers may find themselves on a regional jet with rows of seats missing. Here’s the front of the cabin of an American Eagle Embraer ERJ-175, registration N502SY, operated by SkyWest. This is a new aircraft, just delivered in August 2021, one of 10 10 Embraer E-175 regional jets they’re currently flying for American.
N502SY, Credit: Patrick Fallon
According to American Airlines,
We’ve modified a small number of regional aircraft operated by SkyWest in order to maintain our flying schedule and to ensure we’re complying with the terms of our pilot contract. Those modifications include temporarily removing some seats in both the First Class and main cabins. These modified aircraft will likely remain flying into Summer 2022.
American’s pilot scope clause limits them to flying regional jets with 66-76 seats to no more than 40% of their mainline narrowbody fleet. Retirements of Boeing 757 and Embraer E-190 fleets reduced the size of the mainline narrowbody fleet, limiting the number of 66+ seat regional jets. They will, however, be taking Airbus A321neos, A321XLRs and Boeing 737 MAX aircraft into the fleet that should reduce some of the pressure on larger-capacity regional jets.
The airline tells me that these E-175 regional jets with fewer seats are only used “as substitutions when CRJ-700s are unavailable” at SkyWest. And, they say, this “doesn’t cause any scheduling issues on our end and customers aren’t negatively affected when they fly on these aircraft.”
These planes don’t appear clearly in schedules, and are assigned close-in to travel. So it’s possible to have seat assignments displaced when CR7s are swapped out for these E-175s.
American Airlines Embraer ERJ-175
American isn’t pushed into taking large regional jets and putting just 50 seats in them, like United is with the CRJ-550. Instead they’re pulling a few rows of seats and I imagine they’ll put those back once the mainline fleet gets bigger.
United actually can’t have more than 102 regional jets with 70 seats, and can’t have more than 153 with 76 seats. Their restrictions are similar to Delta’s. American’s scope clause is more flexible, and American has taken advantage of that, but they appear to have run up against that flexibility.