Strategic Meetings Summit London, 26 September,
September 29 2022, Kimpton Fitzroy London
Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
Alison Chambers of Emerald Media reports for ABTN
US Regional Airline Association chairman and CEO of Pinnacle Airlines Phil Trenary urged his colleagues last week to "return to the bed rock of three principles - innovation, creativity and spirit" as US regional airlines prepare to undertake a public awareness campaign to stop ”RJ bashing” stories in local, regional press.
As RAA met for its annual convention in St Louis, Missouri, Trenary stressed that people should ”thank God for regional jets.” Some 1,800 RJs are in service and another 1,700 more on backlog order - 90% of them held by US operators. When Embraer delivers its 800th Embraer 145 it will be to Chautauqua Airlines - part of the Republic Holdings Group.
”Over the next three years, the industry will deliver 600 more to the market”, said RAA president Debby McElroy. ”It is therefore imperative that the Association acts to stop negative stories about the RJs which suggest they are a growing burden on the air traffic system”. In one example, one US FAA controller, was advised by a mainline pilot that RJs cannot fly faster than 0.74 Mach. ”Not true”, said Trenary, ”RJs may fly at this speed to conserve fuel ” but they can certainly match mainline jet performance, if ATC requires it”.
It seems that these stories are probably being circulated by pilots and air traffic as concerns grow about the future of the ATC system, he noted. There are suggestions that the FAA is looking to introduce a demand management system whereby RJs could be unfairly treated against mainline carriers' narrow and widebodied jets.
This unprecedented backlash against RJs comes as ACA prepares to re-launch itself as LCC Independence Air with a fleet of 50-seat CRJ200s, later to be joined by Airbus A319/A320s. As part of its reinvention and focus on high frequency, shuttle style services out of Washington Dulles, ACA is returning all its turboprops, including Jetstream 41s. With the RJs it will increase its utilisation 30%, performing 11.5 hours of daily flying, compared with nine currently, according to chairman and CEO Kerry Skeen.
Independence Air is a first in the industry. No other airline has attempted to launch a low fare operation around an RJ hub with more than 80 aircraft at the outset. From 15 June, it will serve routes including Boston, New York, Raleigh-Durham, Atlanta with 10 or more daily departures.
The new airline faces competition not only from US Airways; American and Delta - but six regional airline partners who have been selected by United to replace ACA's feeder services. One is Shuttle America, which is introducing Saab 340 flights out of Washington Dulles. Its 340s will wear the colours of United - a notable livery for Saab as it prepares to celebrate 20 years of Saab 340 services that very month.
Washington DC based consulting company The Velocity Group, which was commissioned to carry out a study on Independence Air's new model, says that the airline is the first in a new generation of low cost regional airlines - a hybrid - which it expects more in the industry will follow. ”Traditional low cost carriers have rarely attempted to spread the low fare gospel to small and medium sized communities, but the chances of success are strong because Independence Air meets some important criteria,” noted Velocity Partner Doug Abbey. ”It has a defensible niche operating in a vibrant metropolitan catchment area where traffic growth prospects are good; the timing of its market entry is good; it has the right sized aircraft (A319/A320s will be added to serve Florida, Texas and California) and - as an already established air carrier for more than a decade, it is well capitalised ($300m in cash effective 31 December 2003).”
Independence Air follows JetBlue, the industry's most popular low cost model which starts to accept Embraer 190s to complement its A320 fleet in the fourth quarter of 2005.
Without doubt, RAA attendees heard here, the regional segment has been the most profitable in the US airline industry - with as many as 80m passengers flying in regional jets in 2003. In its first ever comprehensive 20-year review of future growth Embraer Aircraft forecast a demand for 8,450 regional aircraft in the 30-60; 61-90 and 891-120 seat category through to 2024 - worth a total $180bn. The US will account for 56% of the total, it says, with Europe, Africa and the Middle East taking 23% of deliveries.
Both Embraer and Bombardier agree that the relaxation of scope clauses will result in the need for more 70-seat regional jets and Bombardier confirmed here it has a feasibility study for a new family of jets in the 115 to 135-seat category. A no/no go decision will be made in 12 months.
Dubbed New Commercial Aircraft Programme, the family is not aligned to the previously mooted BRJX, insisted vice president airline marketing and analysis Barry MacKinnon. The new aircraft, for which an airline advisory group comprising major airlines from Europe, the US and Asia Pacific will shortly be invited to join, plans to offer up to a 15% reduction in operating costs compared with Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 families. With this family, Bombardier is targeting mainline airlines. Bombardier CEO Paul Tellier is seeking Canadian Government support for the programme which will cost about $1.5 bn to develop. There is likely to be a role for Bombardier-owned Shorts of Belfast in the venture and the UK Department of Transport has also been approached for funding. (Shorts has not built an aircraft at Belfast since the 360 stopped production in 1990.
Making his debut at RAA was AvCraft CEO Ben Bartel, who drew the largest audience - media, suppliers and airlines - at his press briefing. Bullish about prospects for the 30-seat Dornier 328Jet for which the company recently restarted the production line at Oberphaffenhofen, Germany, he said the company hoped to announce some 40 new orders within the next few months. This month AvCraft will open a new JAA/FAA approved maintenance and completion centre at Myrtle Beach. Known as Avcraft Support Services, it will cater to Dornier 328Jet and turboprop operators, in addition to third party regional airliners and business aircraft.
Bombardier announced the sole order at the convention - the fourth repeat order for four Q400s to All Nippon Airways of Japan. When the latest 74-seaters are accepted in 2005, the airline will have 12 of the type. Bombardier continues to promote the Q400 as a low cost solution for regionals and is currently in the middle of a demo visit of several US states in central and southern US and the Caribbean. Embraer meanwhile is currently undertaking a tour with the Embraer 170 in the Middle East.
Charles Buchanan, head of business development at London City Airport travelled to St Louis to accept the Airport of the Year Award from Regional Airline World magazine, the second year the UK's premier business airport has been voted best in class by RAW readers. There was a double accolade for Chautauqua Airlines - which won accolades for Airline of the Year and Airline Executive of the Year (CEO Bryan Bedford). In both these categories FlyBE and its managing director Jim French (who won the title last year) was runner up. Mauricio Botelho, president of Embraer scooped the title of Industry Executive for the fourth year running and Rolls-Royce was Supplier of the Year. The lifetime achievement went to Bombardier's John Holding for his work on the Q400 programme.
Emerald Media produced three daily show issues for RAA.