Trans States Scraps Order For Up To 100 Mitsubishi SpaceJets

Trans States Airlines has scrapped its order for up to 100 Mitsubishi SpaceJet M90s. The order was comprised of 50 firm orders and 50 options. The order dates back several years but was unsuitable for the United States as the aircraft did not meet U.S. union rules on regional jets.  

Trans States Airlines has canceled its order for up to 100 M90 SpaceJets. Photo: Mitsubishi Aircraft.

The decision was reported on by Edward Russell in The Points Guy. It is a further setback for the Japanese manufacturer. They now have only 163 firm orders for the aircraft that was known as the Mitsubishi Regional Jet MRJ90 until mid-year when it was rebranded as the SpaceJet.

Missouri based Trans States Airlines operates United Express flights on behalf of United Airlines. Their current fleet of Embraer ERJ-145s operates some 240 daily flights to 70 destinations for United Airlines.

The SpaceJet saga

Trans States’ decision to purchase the then Mitsubishi Regional Jet MRJ90 dates back to 2009. Production and certification of the aircraft have been somewhat of a saga, with continual delays and cost blowouts. Sales have been slow. Whilst ANA was the launch customer, the bulk of the sales thus far have been to US carriers, including 100 SpaceJets destined for SkyWest. But there are problems with the SpaceJet operating in the United States.

There is a scope clause in US airline labor unions that dictate what planes US pilots can fly on regional routes. Such planes cannot weigh more than 39 tonnes and carry more than 76 passengers. The SpaceJet M90 is too heavy and carries more than 76 passengers. In 2009, there was an expectation by both Mitsubishi and Trans States Airlines that this scope clause would be relaxed prior to delivery. But it was not to be.

Labor union clauses mean the M90 SpaceJet is too big to fly on US regional routes. Photo: Mitsubishi Aircraft.

In a statement, Mitsubishi Aircraft President, Hisakazu Mizutani, said;

When we established our contract with TSH, the outlook on the regional market was very different. The scope clause, however, was not relaxed as anticipated.”

Hopes rest on the SpaceJet M100

With the M90 SpaceJet effectively barred from the world’s largest aviation market, Mitsubishi is pinning its hopes on the smaller M100 variant. In September, Mitsubishi Aircraft signed an MOU to supply Mesa Airlines with the M100 version. And while SkyWest’s order is for the larger M90 SpaceJet, Mitsubishi Aircraft is hopeful it can convert the order to the M100.

“We have since shifted our strategy to be responsive to the market realities in the U.S., in partnership with our airline customers. We are confident that the SpaceJet M100 presents us with a market-leading aircraft for North America.”

Mitsubishi Aircraft hopes its outstanding US orders can all be converted to the M100 SpaceJet variant. Photo: Mitsubishi Aircraft.

As for Trans States Airlines, their decision to pull the plug on the M90 SpaceJet would hardly have taken Mitsubishi by surprise. But the Japanese manufacturer is trying to be optimistic and put a positive spin on things. In its statement, Mitsubishi said;

“After close discussions, the decision was made to cancel the contract for the Mitsubishi SpaceJet M90 – 50 firm orders with 50 options – as the variant does not meet the requirements of the United States market.

Future discussions will be focused on the scope compliant SpaceJet M100 aircraft. TSH has been a long-time proponent of our aircraft program and we look forward to continuing discussions regarding a potential order for the SpaceJet M100 product.”

Simple Flying has contacted Trans States Airlines for comment but is yet to receive a response.