Before the end of 2020, Mesa Airlines announced some welcome news heading into 2021. The airline would be expanding its newest capacity agreement with American Airlines to include five additional CRJ-900s from early 2021, leading to more flights for the airline under the American Eagle brand.
Mesa Airlines takes five more CRJ-900s for American Airlines
Mesa Airlines will be flying additional CRJ-900s starting from the beginning of 2021, increasing to five incremental aircraft by March. American Airlines has the ability to withdraw any of these aircraft from flying upon 60 days’ prior notice.
Brad Rich, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Mesa Air Group, stated the following:
“We appreciate the opportunity to add this additional capacity at the request of American Airlines. We remain optimistic about our relationship with American Airlines and are well prepared to respond positively to future opportunities.”
These are not necessarily brand new jets. Instead, the contractual renewal and expansion allow for existing CRJ-900s to keep flying for American.
Amending the capacity purchase agreement
At the end of November, Mesa Airlines and American Airlines entered into a new contract that would see Mesa flying 40 CRJ-900s for five years. This would replace the existing expiring contract of 30 CRJ-900s in 2021 and another 17 in 2022. In total, Mesa’s flying on behalf of American was going from 47 CRJ-900s down to 40. With this new five, it will be up to 45 CRJ-900s.
Mesa Airlines primarily flies for American Airlines out of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX). Mesa is based out of Phoenix.
The airline flies to many regional destinations across the Southwestern United States and into the Southeast and Midwestern United States with American Airlines. Mesa only flies CRJ-900s for American, but it does fly Embraer E175s for United Airlines.
Mesa Airlines operates under the American Eagle banner. The airline’s team does not get to announce new routes or fleet expansions unilaterally. This has to be carefully worked out with major US airlines
How much regional flying American can contract out is determined by its contracts with mainline pilots. Contract regional operations can only be a certain percentage of mainline flying, which has led American in the past to withdraw some regional jets to comply with its mainline pilot contract.
Regional flying is very important
For American Airlines, the importance of regional flying cannot be understated. The airline needs regional feed to support many of its mainline routes. However, these days, the CRJ-900s are not just flying to regional destinations. American Airlines has been putting these planes on some routes served traditionally by mainline planes amid reduced demand.
The next big thing to recognize is the changing living patterns in the United States. With some people taking advantage of remote work and moving away from big cities to regional destinations, there is an opportunity for airlines to do more regional flying to tap into travel demand from city dwellers who have moved as a result of the crisis.
The full extent of these changing living patterns will take time to be revealed, as it is unclear exactly how many people will be able to sustain remote work once offices reopen. Nevertheless, until travel demand significantly improves or living patterns change to favor urbanization, regional flying will be of the utmost importance. And, Mesa Airlines is set to profit off that with a newly expanded agreement with American Airlines.