SkyWest To Invest In Additional CRJ Maintenance In 2020

Credit: Joe Pries

SkyWest Airlines will invest in additional maintenance on its fleet of several-hundred Bombardier CRJ-series aircraft during the first half of the year, motivated by continued demand for small airliners amid ongoing scope-clause restrictions in the U.S. 

“Given the demand we’re seeing, we’re changing our overall maintenance approach on our CRJ fleet to improve its reliability and performance in the long run,” SkyWest president and CEO Chip Childs said on the regional carrier’s 2019 fourth quarter (Q4) earnings call Jan. 30.  

The additional maintenance will affect “the bulk” of SkyWest’s CRJ fleet, although it will primarily target the carrier’s 201 50-seat CRJ 100/200 aircraft, with an average age of 17.5 years, as well as its 94 65-70-seat CRJ-700s, aged 15 years on average. 

Utah-based SkyWest operates roughly half of the -100/200s on behalf of Delta Air Lines and United Airlines as Delta Connection and United Express, respectively, while most of its larger -700s operate on behalf of American Airlines as American Eagle, with the remainder spread between Delta and United. The regional carrier’s CRJ fleet also includes 43 CRJ-900s, ranging between 70 and 76 seats, all operated on behalf of Delta.

“Scope limitations and competitive dynamics have led to a much stronger demand for the older sectors of our fleet,” SkyWest chief commercial officer Wayne Steel said. “The investment to improve operational performance and reliability of our CRJ fleet is in response to stronger customer demand further into the future than we would have originally expected and ongoing scope limitations.”

SkyWest on Jan. 30 announced a flying contract with American Airlines to own and operate 20 new 76-seat Embraer E175s, half of which are expected to be placed into service in late 2020, with the remainder slated for 2021 delivery. The company is expecting a further six E175s in the first half of 2020, which it will own and operate on behalf of Delta under a previously announced agreement, in addition to one new CRJ-900 scheduled for delivery in mid-2020.

“This year represents the start of the next phase of our fleet transition as we increase the new E175 aircraft in our fleet and prepare the CRJ fleet for the future,” Childs said. 

SkyWest earned a $73 million net profit in the fourth quarter, a roughly 9% increase year-over-year, on revenues totaling approximately $3 billion, down 8.5% from a year earlier.

Ben Goldstein

Based in Washington, Ben covers Congress, regulatory agencies, the Departments of Justice and Transportation and lobby groups.