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American Plans 50-Seat Regional Jet Retirement

The airline says it plans to phase out its remaining fleet of 50-seat regional aircraft by the end of the decade.

An American Eagle Embraer E145 aircraft (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

American is firming up plans to phase out its remaining 50-seat regional jet aircraft. As part of an announcement on Monday, the Fort Worth-based airline detailed plans to retire its American Eagle-branded Embraer 145 and Bombardier CRJ-200 aircraft.

By 2030, the carrier plans to retire all of its 50-seat regional jets in favor of two-class aircraft, including the Embraer 175 and CRJ-900. On Monday, American announced an order for 90 E175 aircraft along with 43 additional purchase rights. With the combined firm orders and purchase rights, the airline’s latest E175 deal is worth $7 billion at current list prices.

American’s wholly-owned regional subsidiary Envoy Air is currently one of the largest E170 and E175 operators with roughly 146 in its fleet. Last year, the regional operator retired all of its 50-seat E145 aircraft.

Another American subsidiary — Piedmont — only operates the E145 with 60 in its fleet. Air Wisconsin also operates the CRJ-200 on behalf of American from the airline’s Chicago O’Hare hub.

An Envoy Air E175 aircraft (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

The airline says it is “focused on bringing larger, dual-class regional aircraft into its fleet, which will continue to drive connectivity from smaller markets to the rest of [its] global network.” In a news release, American adds that the use of two-class aircraft benefits passengers with high-speed Wi-Fi, in-seat power outlets, and more spacious cabins.

“The E175 is truly the backbone of the U.S. aviation network, connecting all corners of the country,” said Arjan Meijer, CEO of Embraer Commercial Aviation, in a press release. “One of the world’s most successful aircraft programs, the E175 was upgraded with a series of modifications that improved fuel burn by 6.5%. This modern, comfortable, reliable and efficient aircraft continues to deliver the connectivity the U.S. depends on day after day. This represents American’s largest-ever single order of E175s, and we thank American for its continued trust in our products and people.”

50-Seat Exodus

Exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic and pilot shortage, U.S. airlines shed much of their 50-seat regional jet fleets. In December 2023, Delta operated its last branded CRJ-200 flight.

According to schedule data from Cirium Diio, the number of flights planned on 50-seat Embraer 145 and CRJ-200 series aircraft at American, Delta, and United are down nearly 70% between 2018 and 2023. On the other hand, planned flights on Embraer’s E175 are up nearly 14% during the same period.

“The 50-seaters are beginning their retirement phase, and by the end of this decade there will be very few 50-seat regional jets still flying, at least for United,” United Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Nocella told FlightGlobal in 2021. “Connecting smaller communities to major hubs… is going to become an issue at the end of this decade.”

United has yet to provide specifics on its next steps in removing 50-seat regional jets from service. The airline has United Express-branded CRJ-200 service via SkyWest and a 40% ownership stake in E145 operator CommuteAir.

Ryan Ewing
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  • Ryan Ewing

    Ryan founded AirlineGeeks.com back in February 2013 and has amassed considerable experience in the aviation sector. His work has been featured in several publications and news outlets, including CNN, WJLA, CNET, and Business Insider. During his time in the industry, he's worked in roles pertaining to airport/airline operations while holding a B.S. in Air Transportation Management from Arizona State University along with an MBA. Ryan has experience in several facets of the industry from behind the yoke of a Cessna 172 to interviewing airline industry executives. Ryan works for AirlineGeeks' owner FLYING Media, spearheading coverage in the commercial aviation space.

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