Think 50-seat regional jets (RJs), think the United States. Launched in the mid-1990s, such aircraft have flown over 1.6 billion seats to, from, and within the US between 2004 and 2021. However, use of them has declined almost yearly due to poorer economics relative to larger regional jets. This raises the question: what are the longest routes 50-seat RJs are now used on?
An important gap filler
The 50-seat market has focused on low-density routes with shorter stage lengths, mainly feeding hubs and providing more connectivity. Examining schedules from Cirium, the aviation data company, shows that nearly four in ten flights between 2004 and 2021 were on routes less than 300 miles. Meanwhile, only one in ten was more than 750 miles.
They saw particular success on routes that didn’t have sufficiently high numbers of business passengers (who paid more and were more profitable) and where seats were often filled by high numbers of leisure travelers who paid lower fares.
Once downgauging was a thing
As airlines couldn’t profitably fill larger aircraft that were more expensive to operate, they downgauged to lower-capacity aircraft in collaboration with regional partners on a capacity purchase agreement (CPA) basis.
While this resulted in higher seat-mile costs (but lower sector costs), it was offset by higher-yielding passengers. In the late 1990s, this typically resulted in stronger financial performance for regional partners than for airlines for which they were flying.
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73 routes over 750 miles
Between now and the end of the year, 50-seat RJs will be used on 73 US routes over 750 miles. Some 23,000 flights are scheduled, or 4% of all 50-seat RJ flights, showing how infrequently they’re used on such long sectors.
These 73 routes will be operated by five airlines (well, on their behalf, anyway): Air Canada; American; Delta; Elite; and United. Delta has just one long flight: from Knoxville to Minneapolis (see image). The vast bulk (90%) will be United Express using Air Wisconsin, CommutAir, GoJet, and SkyWest, mostly from its Denver, Houston, and Chicago hubs.
Only four long routes are international
Only four long routes are international: Kansas City to Toronto (838 miles); Denver-Winnipeg (783 miles); Dallas Fort Worth-Zacatecas (770 miles); and Houston Intercontinental-Puebla (769 miles). Envoy Air, operating for American Eagle, will use the Embraer 145 on just four round-trips to Zacatecas, all in October.
The USA’s longest 50-seat jet routes
While all four services to Canada and Mexico are long for 50-seaters, they aren’t the longest. That ‘honor’ (unless you’re tall and/or broad-shouldered) goes to Cleveland to Miami, at some 1,080 miles. See below the photo for the top-10 longest.
- Cleveland-Miami: 1,080 miles
- Indianapolis-Miami: 1,020 miles
- Miami-Pittsburgh: 1,013 miles
- Denver-Eugene: 996 miles
- Columbus-Miami: 990 miles
- Denver-Santa Rosa: 977 miles
- Newark-Vero Beach: 967 miles
- Denver-Medford: 964 miles
- Memphis-New York La Guardia: 963 miles
- Denver-Monterey: 959 miles
American Eagle’s Embraer 145s have only 48 round-trip flights from Cleveland and Miami for the rest of the year. They’ll operate alongside American’s more economically sound A319s and B737-800s, along with Envoy and Republic Airways’ Embraer 175s.
What is the longest RJ flight you’ve been on? Let us know in the comments.