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The End of Delta CRJ-200 Service in Sight
Back in late April of 2023, Delta’s wholly-owned subsidiary Endeavor Air retired its last CRJ-200 and sent the aircraft off with joyous fanfare at the regional carrier’s bases with parties in Atlanta, Detroit, and Minneapolis. This made SkyWest the final operator of Delta Connection branded CRJ-200 service in the airline’s system, but that is about to change come this Fall and early Winter.
Utah-based SkyWest, the largest regional carrier in the U.S., has expressed its intent to change the aircraft servicing all of the Essential Air Service communities that it operates to on behalf of the Delta Connection brand. On August 1, 2023, SkyWest posted individual documents for each community expressing that “Delta Air Lines has established a requirement that SkyWest Airlines operate a dual-class aircraft in communities where we operate Delta Connection service.” These documents are publicly available on Regulations.gov.
With this document, the following cities will be affected; Alpena, Pellston, Sault Ste. Marie, Escanaba, and Iron Mountain, all of which are in Michigan; Brainerd, Bemidji, Hibbing, and International Falls in Minnesota; as well as Rhinelander, Wis.; Aberdeen, S.D.; Cedar City, Utah; and Butte, Mont. making it 13 EAS communities getting a change.
All of the cities mentioned will be switching to CRJ-700 or CRJ-900 service; this comes as Delta implemented a new requirement that it does not want any single-class airline service under the Delta banner. The change from the CRJ-200 to the CRJ-700 or CRJ-900 will take place sometime in October for all of the cities except Rhinelander, Wis. which has already started CRJ-900 service, and Cedar City, Utah which will start sometime in December.
Communities Speak Out
AirlineGeeks did try to reach out to a few of these airports on the list, but most of them did not immediately comment. But we did manage to get a hold of one of the communities that will be affected by these changes. Ryan Bachelor, the Airport Manager in Pellston, Mich., was willing to speak with us about this change in aircraft type in his community:
AirlineGees (AG): Do you think this capacity increase to a larger aircraft will cause the airline to decrease frequencies there in Pellston?
Ryan Bachelor (PLN): So with the frequencies, you know with the pilot shortages I am not really 100% sure, but this aircraft upgrade was a directive from Delta, they want to have dual-class products at every airport they serve. I am not sure what the frequency will end up being yet, but a larger plane will mean they can bring in more people to the area, so that is good.
(AG): You briefly mentioned it already, but what prompted Delta to make this change to the larger aircraft?
(PLN): I don’t know the exact terminology of the request, but Delta is trying to operate dual class products, so economy and first class, in every single market that they fly to, even smaller markets in the Essential Air Service program. SkyWest operates for Delta here in our location, and Delta wants them to move to a larger aircraft by I believe October.
(AG): Is there anything that you will need to change at your airport, aircraft parking or terminal-wise, to accommodate a larger aircraft?
(PLN): So, we are working closely and we have a really good relationship with TSA and we have to develop an alternate means of compliance in the security category until we can take a look at the long-term impact since we are going to be receiving larger aircraft long-term.
(AG): Do you think this increase in seats will benefit your community or hurt it with an overabundance of capacity?
(PLN): I think it will benefit us, Pellston has a pretty high demand for more seats and I think that bringing in the larger aircraft, especially during our unsubsidized season (May through October) will be very beneficial for our enplanements.
Some Cities Remain
There are two EAS communities with SkyWest under the Delta brand that are missing from this list; West Yellowstone, Mont., and Moab Utah. This is due to the fact that West Yellowstone is seasonal and only receives airline service from May until October, and Moab will be receiving a new airline come Fall 2023.
Depending on when in October the switch happens, we could still be three-to-four months out from the move away from the CRJ-200 at the SkyWest EAS communities under the Delta Connection brand, and a lot could happen at that time as the aviation industry can change rapidly. And with one city remaining until December, Cedar City, Utah, we could have just a single CRJ-200 route under the Delta brand for the last two months of service if the majority of them do switch in October 2023 as the document reads.
In the posted document, SkyWest has also said that “There is no request for a change in subsidy, weekly frequencies, or service to the hub designated in the EAS contract.” But this is for the current contract and it is expected that some aspects will change the next time each community comes up for rebidding.
But, if the changes reflected in these documents do hold true for the next few months and don’t change, we will see the final Delta Connection CRJ-200 flight from its Detroit and Minneapolis/St. Paul hubs sometime in October. And, a final Delta CRJ-200 flight in December between Cedar City, Utah, and Salt Lake City, the latter of which will become the airline’s final hub to see CRJ-200 service under the Delta brand and livery.
The change to the CRJ-700 or CRJ-900 is not yet reflected on Delta’s booking website but is expected in the next couple of weeks as both airlines work out the details for the mass move away from one of the unanimously hated aircraft in the skies. And while it was hated by most travelers, the CRJ-200 is what connected many people in these small communities and entered them into the jet age, thus moving away from small turboprop aircraft.
AirlineGeeks actually took a trip and connected in one of the affected communities on a Delta CRJ-200, Iron Mountain, Mich., of which the trip report can be found here.
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