10 November 2021, Virtual
London, UK - November 2021
London, UK - December 2021
The three largest U.S. carriers all are focusing on
improving the reliability and aircraft quality of their regional service. While
long-haul flights with ultra-luxury amenities often get the most attention,
regional service remains the workhorse of the U.S. aviation industry, accounting
for as many as half the departures for major airlines.
Regional partners to the major airlines operate much of that
traffic, but from a traveler viewpoint, they are one and the same, Delta CEO Ed
Bastian said. "When a customer buys a ticket on Delta, they don't specify
what product they're going to be on," Bastian said earlier this year. "We're
working to create brand-perfect days and are spending a lot of time with our
In late May, Delta updated
the operational commitment it had made to corporate buyers—a promise of
compensation should its on-time and cancellation performance dip below those of
both United Airlines and American Airlines—to include regional service.
Previously, it had included only mainline service.
Delta's regional cancellations are down so far this year. By
the end of May, it had logged 26 "brand-perfect" days, more than
double what it had recorded through all of 2015, Bastian said, and in May, its
six regional partners had a run of 17,000 operations without a cancellation.
United, which included regional service in its own operational
commitment from its inception, is making its own efforts to improve
regional service reliability, United vice president of network Brian Znotins
said. Part of that has been better scheduling. "We've looked at having
fewer operators at hubs or operators at fewer hubs," he said.
We want [aircraft] to be available but make sure to give them the appropriate ... time in the hubs to turn the planes around."
Similarly, American Airlines has raised its regional service's
on-time performance in recent months to where it was prior to the merger with
US Airways—and maybe higher, senior vice president of regional carriers Kenji
Hashimoto said. "I'd love to say we did something magical, but a lot of
that is settling the two sets of operations," he said. "We've made
some adjustments to the way we schedule the aircraft. We want them to be
available but make sure to give them the appropriate amount of time in the hubs
to turn the planes around."
All three carriers, meanwhile, are cutting down use of
50-seat regional jets in favor of larger, two-cabin aircraft. That means
regional service will more closely resemble mainline service, including food,
bigger overhead bins and Wi-Fi.
United has "been putting a lot of mainline aircraft
into markets we haven't seen previously," including Nashville and Kansas
City, Znotins said. Half of American's regional fleet is two-class aircraft,
and two-thirds of Delta's regional aircraft are dual-class planes.
Carriers still plan to use smaller aircraft on
select routes, however. "[For] some markets that are not big, don't have
that much demand or are closer in to a hub, a 50-seater might make the most
economic sense," Hashimoto said. "It's better for that community to
have the 50-seater coming in than nothing at all."