The pilot shortage is real and affects airlines operating regional jets the most. That’s one reason that American Airlines is adding a row of seats to 76 seat regional jets, bumping up Bombardier CR-9s to 80 seats (even though they won’t be allowed to fill it with more than 79 passengers because of their pilot union contract).
Airlines will go find regional lift anywhere they can right now, and One Mile at a Time reports that American Airlines has found a deal with Air Wisconsin for up to 60 Bombardier CR2 regional jets to fly as American Eagle. This new service is expected to start in March, and center mainly around Chicago O’Hare. (Currently Air Wisconsin operates 55 CR2 aircraft, all for United out of Chicago O’Hare and Washington Dulles. These will move, since United had informed Air Wisconsin it wouldn’t renew their deal beyond its 2023 expiration.)
The Bombardier CR2 is one of the worst passenger experiences in the sky. To be sure, American Airlines currently operates Embraer ERJ-145 regional jets with just 50 seats. 50 seat RJs are never great, and those even lack power and internet. But they are better than CR2s. The ERJ-145 configuration is 1-2, and so passengers on the left side of the aircraft do not have anyone seated next to them. The CR2 packs in the same number of people in a 2×2 configuration.
American’s Bombardier CR7 and CR9 aircraft, while not as spacious as their Embraer counterparts either, offer first class seats. The CR2 does not.
Air Wisconsin got its name because it was founded in the state 57 years ago. They began flying as United Express in 1986, and they’ve since flown for American and US Airways as well. Their fleet of CR2 aircraft dates in part to the late 1990s and some are slated for retirement. I’ll be curious to see how many planes initially operate for American and how long it will take to ramp up to the full potential deal.
#ThrowbackThursday to August 1965, when Air Wisconsin was founded with a single 9-passenger De Havilland Dove. #flyinghome pic.twitter.com/IPGf15mps2
— Air Line Pilots Association (@ALPAPilots) September 7, 2017
To be clear, a route operated by a CR2 is better than a route that doesn’t have air service. And in some cases that’s the relevant margin on which the decision gets made. But that may not be true for every route Air Wisconsin operates for American. It’ll be a downgrade in passenger experience, but still a better passenger experience than a wagon train or horse drawn carriage.
(HT: One Mile at a Time)