MIAMI — St. George, Utah-based SkyWest has signed a deal with Embraer for seven new E175 jets, valued at $301 million. The regional will operate those jets on new routes for Alaska Airlines, starting on July 1 to three new destinations.
The E175s will fly on behalf of Alaska under a capacity purchase agreement. The first three aircraft will arrive in the summer of 2015, and the remaining four will be delivered in the first quarter of 2016. SkyWest will fly Alaska’s daily nonstop service between Seattle and Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Seattle and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Portland, Oregon and St. Louis.
Kevin Schorr is a vice president at Alexandria, Virginia-based Campbell-Hill Aviation, a consulting firm that works on developing strategies for air service development. He called SkyWest’s deal with Alaska Air a game changer, even though the regional carrier already flies the Bombardier CRJ700 under contract.
“The CRJ700 doesn’t have the legs or passenger comfort that the E175 does. Also, the E175 allows Alaska Air to hit that 1500-mile segment that you could do on the CRJ700 yet don’t want to do in fear of passenger revolt,” said Schorr.
Alaska Airlines has a huge cluster of markets in the 60- to 100-Passengers Daily Each Way (PDEW) size, which you can’t serve with a 737 and, again, it’s too long haul for the CRJ700, said Schorr. “The E175 will be a fantastic option for Alaska and offer it tons of opportunity, especially in their focus cities of San Diego and San Jose,” he said.
Doing the capacity deal with Skywest is much less risky than adding 175s into the fleet, said Schorr. “It’s better to tap into the resources of a carrier that already flies them instead of building a new infrastructure where you might only fly 20 to 25 of them,” he said. “The current deal with SkyWest for the CRJ700s is going so well it made sense to take next step with them.” Alaska Airlines also made a conscious decision for Horizon to be a single aircraft airline, with the Bombardier Q400 turboprop, he added.
The E175s being flown by SkyWest for Alaska Airlines will be just like the ones they currently fly for United Airlines, said Schorr. The jets, which have 12 first class and 64 coach seats, offer amenities including Wi-Fi, streaming inflight entertainment and power outlets in first class seats.
“They give passengers more of a main cabin experience. This was important, since Alaska is concerned with the passenger experience,” he said. “Passengers get on the E175 and they don’t notice the difference from mainline aircraft.”
SkyWest currently flies 15 E175s and is the launch customer of the Embraer E175-E2, with an order of 100 and options on another 100.