American Airlines is adding 22 spacious E170 regional jets this spring

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A handful of regional jets are joining the American Eagle fleet this spring.

Over the weekend, the Fort Worth-based carrier filed its first routes for Embraer E170 aircraft that are due to join its regional fleet in the coming months. The planes will be based at New York LaGuardia (LGA) and will fly for two American Eagle subsidiaries, Envoy Air and Republic Airways.

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Envoy is getting six newly purchased E170s. These planes were flying for British Airways’ CityFlyer subsidiary until earlier this year, when the London-based carrier decided to no longer fly the mid-size Embraer regional jet due to the pandemic.

Instead of sending them to the airplane boneyard, CityFlyer found a new home for its six E170s — Envoy Air. After the roughly 11-year-old planes hop across the pond, they’ll be repainted, rebranded and retrofitted for AA service.

Envoy Air will start flying the E170s between LGA and Indianapolis (IND) on June 3, per Cirium timetables and later confirmed by the carrier. AA will then add a second Envoy-operated E170 route, from LGA to Wilmington, North Carolina (ILM), on Oct. 31. Of course, schedules are subject to change due to the pandemic.

When Envoy inaugurates E170 service later this year, the jets will be outfitted in a 65-seat arrangement, with 12 seats in first class, 20 in extra-legroom Main Cabin Extra and 33 in coach. First class will be arranged in a 1-2 configuration, and economy will be in a 2-2 layout. The planes will feature Wi-Fi and in-seat power outlets.

In May, American Eagle-partner Republic Airways also will start flying a 65-seat version of the E170, based at LaGuardia as well. Cirium schedules show that the new jet is currently slated to operate a bunch of LGA routes, including to:

  • Asheville (AVL)
  • Atlanta (ATL)
  • Cleveland (CLE)
  • Indianapolis (IND)
  • Key West (EYW)
  • Nashville (BNA)
  • Pensacola (PNS)
  • Raleigh-Durham (RDU)
  • Wilmington (ILM)

Republic confirmed that the newly reconfigured E170s have been in its fleet flying for other carriers, but they will be reallocated to American Eagle. For now, 16 Republic Embraer 170s will be reconfigured in a 65-seat arrangement.

Adding Embraer 170s — in a spacious, 65-seat arrangement — is a strategic move on American’s part.

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Why?

Well, it boils down to a scope clause that American has with its pilots. These contract provisions limit how much flying American can outsource to its regional subsidiaries, based on the number of seats in each regional jet.

Per the terms of the scope clause, American Eagle can only operate a certain percentage of regional jets seating between 66 and 76 passengers.

Related: American Airlines to retire entire Embraer 140 fleet in May

By purposely outfitting the E170s with just 65 seats, these jets qualify as small regional aircraft and don’t count towards the limit on larger jets. (United made a similar strategic move when creating the 50-seat CRJ-550, a more spacious variant of the larger CRJ-700.)

Adding 65-seat E170s comes as American is gearing up to retire its smallest regional jet, the Embraer 140, this May. Brian Znotins, American’s vice president of network planning, recently told TPG that “we are publishing our plans now to phase out that aircraft type. As we continue bringing larger regional jets into our system, the Embraer 140s are the first we are phasing out.”

Related: 8 things to know about the new American Airlines-JetBlue alliance

Flying larger regional jets equipped with a first-class cabin was one of the major selling points for AA’s new Northeast alliance with JetBlue. As part of the pact, American promised to upgauge all New York flying to jets equipped with a first-class cabin, like the E170s that are now set to begin flying under the carrier’s brand.

Featured photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images

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