CommuteAir is looking to size up its operations. The carrier, currently the exclusive E145 operator for United Airlines‘ regional services, now wants to add the E175 family to its fleet.
In a filing with the US Department of Transportation CommuteAir describes plans to acquire a single E175 “for training purposes and then for limited single-entity charter service as it explores commercial opportunities for a larger deployment.”
United has not been shy about its plans to reduce 50-seat jet flying within its network. As part of the United NEXT fleet update, including the 270+ aircraft order announced last summer, more than 200 50-seaters were expected to be removed from service. Transitioning CommuteAir to the larger planes could see its current fleet of 64 E145s dropped.
If approved by the DOT (no reason to believe it will face any challenges) this transition opens up another operator for the larger regional jets that United continues to add to its fleet. Given the pilot staffing challenges at regional airlines, securing diversity of operators is of some value for United.
Reports suggest that the E175s could come over to CommuteAir from Mesa. The filing states that the carrier is in discussions with lessors about securing aircraft.
CommuteAir became United’s exclusive E145 operator in July 2020. That deal effectively killed ExpressJet, another longtime E145 airline. While ExpressJet tried to revive its operations under the aha! brand, that plan did not deliver.
United Airlines owns 40% of CommuteAir. The remaining 60% is held by Champlain Enterprises, LLC. Currently, CommuteAir’s 1,300 employees operate about 230 flights each day connecting small and mid-size cities to United’s hubs in Denver, Houston and Washington Dulles. The company also performs maintenance at its hangars in Albany, NY; Houston, TX; and Lincoln, NE.
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