US major United Airlines has confirmed that it will debut its new Embraer E175 aircraft on routes from Chicago O’Hare from May this year. The aircraft will be operated by regional affiliate SkyWest Airlines under the United Express brand and will be configured in a 76-seat layout with 12 seats in United First, 16 seats in United Economy Plus and 48 seats in United Economy.
United will initially introduce the aircraft on its route between Chicago O’Hare and Ronald Reagan Washington National from May 17, 2014 before launching the aircraft on its Chicago O’Hare – Boston Logan International link two days later on May 19, 2014. It competes directly with American Airlines on both routes and jetBlue Airways on the Chicago – Boston city pair.
"At United, we are focused on modernizing our fleet, and we look forward to introducing the E175 to our United Express service. Compared to the 50-seat aircraft we are replacing, these aircraft provide a superior customer experience and are more fuel efficient," said Jim Compton, vice chairman and chief revenue officer, United. "With a large first class cabin, wider fuselage, and larger overhead bins, this aircraft brings an improved regional flying experience to our customers."
Although the United executive talks about the E175 replacing smaller 50-seat aircraft, namely the ERJ 145, it will initially replace similarly sized Bombardier CRJ700 airliners on its launch routes. The US carrier currently utilises a mix of mainline single-aisle Airbus A320 Family and Boeing Next-Generation 737s and larger 757-200s alongside the CRJ700s. United’s Shuttle America affiliate also serves the Chicago – Washington Reagan National market with E170s.
Significant orders for the E175s were placed by United Airlines and SkyWest Airlines last year. United initially placed an order for 30 E175s in April 2013 for operation by United Express from 2014 through to 2015. This deal also included options for 40 more aircraft which was formalised just a month later when a capacity purchase agreement was reached for SkyWest Airlines to operate 40 E175s under the United Express brand, also for delivery in 2014 and 2015.
“Our customers tell us they value comfort and convenience in an in-flight experience,” said Jeff Foland, EVP of marketing, technology and strategy, United. “The addition of the E175 to the United Express fleet enables us to maintain and better serve our customers, particularly in regional and in high-frequency business markets, as we build a flyer-friendly airline.”
The partnership between Embraer and United dates back to the original placement of EMB-120 Brasilia turboprops with Continental Airlines in the 1980s. The airline, which was merged with United in 2010, was also the launch customer for the 50-seat ERJ 145, eventually acquiring 275 jets: the largest ERJ fleet in the world. There are already 38 E170s flying with United’s regional partner Shuttle America under the United Express brand.