Delta Air Lines is poised to upgrade its regional fleet. The carrier secured an order for twenty new Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft and will be the launch customer for the new “Atmosphère” cabin concept on the CRJ family of aircraft. That product, announced in September 2017, offers larger overhead bins, LED mood lighting, a larger lavatory and improved aesthetics throughout the cabin. The 20 aircraft will be delivered through to 2020 and will replace older regional jets according to Delta.
“We are thrilled that Delta continues to select the CRJ Series as the airline looks into the future growth of its regional operations,” said Fred Cromer, president, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft. “Together with Delta, we have driven the development of regional aviation in the U.S., and we are looking forward to further enhancing regional air travel with the launch of the new ATMOSPHÈRE cabin with our long-standing and esteemed customer.”
Big PaxEx Improvements
It is not often these days that a new aircraft delivery flies fewer seats than prior deliveries of that model but this appears to be the case with Delta’s new CRJ900s. The new planes are expected to carry 70 passengers, with 12 seats in first class, 20 in Comfort+ and 38 in the main cabin. The CR9s flying for the carrier today are configured 12/20/44 meaning the new planes will reduce the seating density on board.
Beyond the seating layout Atmosphere brings significantly larger overhead bins and a lavatory capable of handling passengers of reduced mobility (PRM) in a comfortable manner.
Read More: A new Atmosphere: Can the CRJ become sexy?
The bins will handle bags wheels in rather than sideways, significantly increasing the number that can be accommodated on board. This is especially significant for the dozen passengers flying up front who previously had to battle for bin space.
The PRM-capable lavatory is an option for the new cabin design; neither Delta nor Bombardier are clear whether the option is being taken or if it is just the larger overall lav space that will fly for the carrier. Either way, the move towards this capability is a step in the right direction for many passengers.
Passenger with reduced mobility does not necessarily mean people in a wheelchair. It includes pregnant women, people with small children, people with injuries. There are all sorts of people who travel now no matter what because it is part of our lives. They expect to see even in a regional jet the same level of comfort and features that you get in other jets. – Colin Bole, SVP Sales Bombardier Commercial Aircraft
Fighting for the future of the RJ market
The Atmosphère cabin layout is the third generation of interiors for the CRJ family and is a direct response to the superior passenger experience offered by Embraer‘s similarly sized aircraft. Sales in the 50-seat market are drying up and competition for replacements in the 70-seat range will be fierce. Bombardier does carry an advantage against the new E2-175 in gross weight; the latter currently faces challenges in meeting the scope clause requirements for US regional airlines. It also is not available yet for delivery, though the prior generation E175s are.
Bombardier has long claimed lower operating costs versus Embraer; part of that is predicated on the seating density. Dropping a row and a half on these planes won’t help those numbers but it will improve the passenger experience on board. And maybe still keep the TCO low enough for Delta to be satisfied, too.