Chicago based United Airlines is looking to acquire 54 Bombardier CRJ550 regional jets fitted out with first-class seats.
According to The Points Guy, United are looking to secure all 54 aircraft by the end of next year. The CRJ550s are a new Bombardier built aircraft based on CRJ700 airframes. Bombardier is promoting the regional jet as being the first triple-class 50-seat aircraft in the world.
The CRJ550 will replace older regional jets
In a press release from the Canadian plane maker, they claim that the CRJ550 is the only solution for North America’s aging fleet of 50 seat aircraft.
Fred Cromer, President, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft said in the media release,
“The new CRJ550 model is the only solution in North America that can replace the existing fleet of aging 50-seaters, a market of over 700 aircraft. It offers an improved passenger experience with ample onboard storage for carry-on bags and more passenger living space. This is one more example of how we are focusing on creating value for our customers and a very important endorsement from United in regards to the CRJ platform.”
United’s CRJ550s will have 10 first-class seats
United’s new 50 seat regional jet will be fitted out with 10 first-class seats.
The rest of the aircraft will be comprised of 20 economy plus seats and 20 standard economy seats.
United Airlines CRJ550s will also feature large storage closets, eliminating the need for passengers to gate check their bags. In addition to this, the plane comes with a self-serve beverage and snack station and more overall legroom per seat than any other 50 passenger aircraft flown by any American airline.
The first CRJ550 will be based in Chicago
When the first of United’s new CRJ550s arrives later this year, it will be based at their Chicago O’Hare hub and be put on the ORD-XNA route. For those not familiar with the XNA airport code, it refers to Bentonville, Arkansas which just happens to be the world headquarters of Walmart.
Following this other aircraft will be put on routes to smaller regional airports, and will be based at both Chicago O’Hare and Newark Liberty airports.
When talking about the CRJ550s back in February, executives at United Airlines said the new planes would help their current competitive disadvantage in some of the country’s smaller markets.
Currently, United’s contracts with its pilots limit the airline to 255 large regional jets that feature first-class cabins. Meanwhile, Delta and American Airlines can both fly more of the larger models.
By flying the CRJ550 United Airlines will now be able to introduce a first-class service on smaller routes while still complying with contractual requirements of their pilots. Andrew Nocella, the chief commercial officer of United, commented on this during a second-quarter earnings call on July 17th, saying,
“Getting our structural disadvantage in smaller communities fixed is a priority … We’re excited to see the 550 into service and what it’s going do to us.”
Besides helping United Airlines level the playing field in smaller markets, the CRJ550 will create new upgrade opportunities for frequent flyers. The way United will do this is by introducing the CRJ550s on routes that currently fly 50 seat aircraft will an all-economy configuration.
The United CCO did not put an exact date on when the new CRJ550s would enter service other than to say it would be “later this year”.