American Explains How They Choose Regional Jets for Routes: “Trial and Error”

American Airlines just placed an order for Bombardier CRJ900 regional jets. They placed another order for Embraer EMB-175 regional jets. Both types of planes are 76 seat aircraft that will be flown by American’s regional partners.

Even though the carrier says they’re trying to simplify their fleet, operate fewer aircraft types and subfleets, they’re doubling down on flying similar competitor products.

Their regional partners, including wholly owned carriers like Envoy Air and PSA, fly CR7s, Embraer 140s and 145s, and even CRJ-200s. Regional jets with 50 seats and below don’t offer a first class cabin. While most of American’s regional fleet offers internet, most lacks seat power.

American’s Vice President – Planning Vasu Raja explained to employees at Chicago O’Hare last week how they assign regional jets to different routes. And it turns out much of it comes down to ‘trial and error’.

How do we put especially the premium RJs in some markets versus others? … the more bases we stretch a regional operator into the more risk we put on their operation, so we try to consolidate our regional operators into fewer bases which has the necessary byproduct where you only have certain fleet types you can access in a place like Chicago. It’s what Envoy and SkyWest can effectively bring to the table.

… The fifty seaters are single class and the rest of the RJs are increasingly going to dual class, then it’s more of trial and error to be quite honest with you. We put the larger RJs in markets that have stronger aggregate demand. … If you’re seeing a case where there’s value in putting a premium product in some of those markets we make schedules so often we’ll just go try it. We’ll move it there and see how it works out for a defined period of time, and indeed if it’s producing the kind of P&L result we all want then we’ll go and keep it there. So it’s largely trial and error, typically in general the large RJ goes to places where the demand is higher.

The next time I draw an Embraer ERJ-140 I may email Vasu Raja in hopes of a plane with first class!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This time around this does make sense — sometimes small markets do not have high PDEW but can be premium heavy (I.E. MRY, HHH, EYW, HVN, etc.).

    This really benefits the smaller markets in having a real shot in securing some flights with a more premium product.

  2. “The fifty seaters are single class and the rest of the RJs are increasingly going to dual class”

    Does someone want to tell the VP of Planning that AA’s 51+ seat RJs are all dual class and have been for something like 5+ years now?

  3. Those Embraer are a lot like a really cheap new car. They work great for a couple of years but you can tell they are a little cheap and plastic. Don’t want to be on an older one.

  4. I hear they are seeking approval to fly these fine jets to Europe from Charlotte as their new luxury premium class product
    This will allow for greater flight departure dependability :);)

  5. A/B testing is a pretty common business tactic at all levels. One would hope they’re making educated guesses before testing instead of throwing sh** at a wall and seeing what sticks, but who knows. That they’re testing markets/products, shouldn’t really be a surprise.

  6. this pisses me off. they took out mainline for regional from LAX to SFO which never made sense. the planes were always full. such an inconvenience flying EAGLE out of LAX to begin with and sucks that you have to go to all of that trouble for an hour flight. Even Vegas uses 737’s.

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