One of the most uncomfortable regional jets is making a big comeback at American Airlines.
The Fort Worth-based carrier is reintroducing the 50-seat Bombardier CRJ-200 on select regional routes beginning in April 2023, as first seen in Cirium schedules and later confirmed by an airline spokesperson.
For now, the plan calls for American to deploy the CRJ-200 on the following 10 routes from Chicago, as you can see in the table and map below. While American is only scheduling 10 routes at the outset, expect that number to grow in the coming months as the airline adds more of these jets into its American Eagle fleet.
The CRJ-200 is outfitted with just 50 economy seats, and it offers one of the most cramped experiences in the sky. The overhead bins are barely large enough for a backpack, and taller passengers need to mind their heads when walking up and down the aisle.
Seats are arranged in a tight 2-2 configuration, and there isn’t much in the way of amenities. Other than a small lavatory, don’t expect to access Wi-Fi or charge your devices while in flight. There’s no first-class cabin, and the bulkhead and exit row economy seats aren’t all that comfortable, either.
That said, all of American’s new CRJ-200 routes are short, averaging about 225 miles each. American’s regional affiliate SkyWest Airlines last operated the CRJ-200 for American Eagle in June 2020, Cirium schedules show.
For American, bringing back the CRJ-200 is a strategic move to ensure it can continue offering a robust regional network amid the nationwide pilot shortage.
“American has been — and will continue to be — aggressive in leading the industry in tackling this challenge, but it will take some time before the issue is resolved,” said Derek Kerr, American’s chief financial officer, in an internal memo when the tie-up with Air Wisconsin was first unveiled.
The carrier announced in August that it would once again partner with regional airline Air Wisconsin to provide CRJ-200 service out of its Chicago hub.
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American’s new capacity purchase agreement (as it’s called in the industry) with Air Wisconsin covers up to 60 CRJ-200s, with the possibility of adding more aircraft, including the larger CRJ-700, down the line if demand warrants.
This isn’t the first time that American Eagle has partnered with Air Wisconsin. This regional affiliate previously operated as US Airways Express from August 2005 to October 2015; it then operated as American Eagle from October 2015 to February 2018, when US Airways and American Airlines operations were combined.
Beginning in March 2018, Air Wisconsin started flying exclusively for United Express, focused primarily on short routes from O’Hare and Dulles International Airport (IAD).
As part of the shift to American, United’s exclusive agreement with Air Wisconsin will end early next year. While American brings on more 50-seat regional jets into its fleet, United is doing exactly the opposite.
The Chicago-based carrier plans to phase out all 50-seat operations as part of its United Next growth strategy, which calls for larger narrow-body aircraft that feature first-class cabins on domestic routes.
American’s 10 initial CRJ-200 routes
- O’Hare International Airport (ORD) — Appleton International Airport (ATW).
- ORD — Bishop International Airport (FNT).
- ORD — Dayton International Airport (DAY).
- ORD — Eastern Iowa Airport (CID).
- ORD — Eppley Airfield/Omaha Airport (OMA).
- ORD — Huntsville International Airport (HSV).
- ORD — Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport (AZO).
- ORD — Manhattan Regional Airport (MHK).
- ORD — Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE).
- ORD — Waterloo Regional Airport (ALO).