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Delta Planning to Fly Premium-Heavy CRJ-550s

The airline is slated to add the 50-seat aircraft to its regional fleet.

A Delta Connection CRJ-700 aircraft (Photo: Shutterstock)

Roughly two weeks ago, AirlineGeeks first reported that SkyWest plans to add the CRJ-550 to its fleet, transitioning 19 CRJ-700s from an expiring American contract. While Delta hasn’t officially announced that it will operate the type, the carrier has since added the CRJ-550 to its website’s fleet page, essentially taking the spot above the CRJ-700, right where the CRJ-200 used to sit.

The Atlanta-based airline has also added a seat map of the CRJ-550 to its website, whichis in the same configuration as United’s with 10 first class seats, 20 premium economy seats branded as Comfort+, and 20 economy seats. The CRJ-550 is essentially a CRJ-700 body, with modifications made on the interior to only hold 50 seats.

Delta’s CRJ-550 seat map (Photo: Delta.com)

According to various Essential Air Service (EAS) documents, the CRJ-550 has the option to take the place of the CRJ-700 and CRJ-900 on EAS flights that SkyWest used to operate on the 50-seat CRJ-200.

But, that brings an interesting question into play, the CRJ-550 was introduced by GoJet and United to provide more premium seats on shorter flights that have higher premium traffic but not necessarily enough overall demand to support a larger mainline aircraft with a lot more seats in all cabins. A majority of the initial cities Delta’s CRJ-550 will likely be operating in will be the government-funded EAS communities with relatively low premium seat demand compared to other markets.

EAS contracts and proposed subsidies that the airlines submit are calculated based on the average fare, expected revenue, profit margins, how many seats they estimate will be filled, along with many other accounting factors. The CRJ-200 that SkyWest operated was entirely economy class for all 50 seats, but now with the CRJ-550, over half of the seats in the cabin will be in a class above economy, with 20% of the cabin now being first-class seats.

A Delta CRJ-200 in Iron Mountain (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

This could theoretically make future EAS subsidies much higher, as the average fare of the entire cabin will now be much higher with first class and premium economy seats thrown into the mix.However, with the initial Delta CRJ-550 routes yet to be announced, one can only guess what effect this will have on small communities around the country, as well as the regional jet market as a whole.

Editor’s Note: A spokesperson from SkyWest confirmed on Monday that the airline is operating the CRJ-550 under the Delta Connection brand. 

Joey Gerardi

Author

  • Joey Gerardi

    Joe has always been interested in planes, for as long as he can remember. He grew up in Central New York during the early 2000s when US Airways Express turboprops ruled the skies. Being from a non-aviation family made it harder for him to be around planes and would only spend about three hours a month at the airport. He was so excited when he could drive by himself and the first thing he did with the license was get ice cream and go plane spotting for the entire day. When he has the time (and money) he likes to take spotting trips to any location worth a visit. He’s currently enrolled at Western Michigan University earning a degree in Aviation Management and Operations.

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