It’s a Regional Thing – Regional Airlines provide significant air service

Do you ever pay close attention to the writing next to the door when boarding an aircraft? While you booked on Delta, American, or United, you’ll see things like “operated by PSA” or “operated by ExpressJet” painted near the nose of many flights you take. These flights are operated by regional airlines. Regional airlines have been around since the dawn of commercial air service and continue to be a large and vital part of the airline industry, including here at AVL.

Technically, almost every airline before the jet age began as a regional airline. In the early days, airlines didn’t have hubs designed to connect passengers from various flights, and instead flew long routes with multiple stops along the way. Even early cross-country flights made dozens of stops along the way, allowing passengers to travel regionally or coast-to-coast. Can you imagine booking a flight to California… but stopping in eight or nine cities en route? So what changed between then and now?

Prior to 1978, the government regulated all domestic interstate airline routes, controlling which airlines could fly where, and even their schedules and fares. All this changed in 1978 when the Airline Deregulation Act essentially made the airline industry a free market. This resulted in many existing airlines focusing operations in a few key cities, thereby leading to the formation of the very first airline hubs. There were also dozens of new airlines being created all across the United States. Many of these airlines chose to operate smaller airplanes (in the nine- to fifty-seat range) and focused on connecting smaller cities with major cities and the newly forming airline hubs. Some of these smaller regional airlines of the 1980s laid the foundation for the regional airlines of today.

Today, regional airlines largely fly on behalf of larger airlines like American, United or Delta. They generally fly regional jets and turboprop aircraft with 76 seats or less, and are flown on routes where larger aircraft wouldn’t be as economically viable. These routes often include flights to smaller cities from hubs and flights between lucrative business markets that demand high frequency. Larger airlines don’t fly these planes themselves because their cost structure is built around flying and maintaining much larger airplanes.

Some of these regional airlines are wholly owned by a major airline and others are private entities. Most of their flying is dictated by the major airlines for which they fly. In these scenarios, an airline like Delta will pay a regional airline like ExpressJet to fly routes on its behalf and with its brand. The aircraft will say Delta, your ticket will say Delta, you’ll use a Delta gate and the flight crew will welcome you aboard a Delta Connection flight, but the flight itself may be operated by ExpressJet, Endeavor, SkyWest, or other regional airlines. Each of the 3 major airlines brand the flights operated by their regional partners as Delta Connection, American Eagle, and United Express, respectively.

Without regional airlines, today’s airline industry would look very different. Airports like AVL would only have three or four flights to Atlanta and Charlotte on bigger airplanes, instead of double that frequency on smaller jets. Statistics have shown that increased flight options leads to increased travel in cities our size, which is great not only for that trip you’re planning, but also for bringing more visitors (and more visitor spending) into our region.Do you ever pay close attention to the writing next to the door when boarding an aircraft? While you booked on Delta, American, or United, you’ll see things like “operated by PSA” or “operated by ExpressJet” painted near the nose of many flights you take. These flights are operated by regional airlines. Regional airlines have been around since the dawn of commercial air service and continue to be a large and vital part of the airline industry, including here at AVL.

Technically, almost every airline before the jet age began as a regional airline. In the early days, airlines didn’t have hubs designed to connect passengers from various flights, and instead flew long routes with multiple stops along the way. Even early cross-country flights made dozens of stops along the way, allowing passengers to travel regionally or coast-to-coast. Can you imagine booking a flight to California… but stopping in eight or nine cities en route? So what changed between then and now?

Prior to 1978, the government regulated all domestic interstate airline routes, controlling which airlines could fly where, and even their schedules and fares. All this changed in 1978 when the Airline Deregulation Act essentially made the airline industry a free market. This resulted in many existing airlines focusing operations in a few key cities, thereby leading to the formation of the very first airline hubs. There were also dozens of new airlines being created all across the United States. Many of these airlines chose to operate smaller airplanes (in the nine- to fifty-seat range) and focused on connecting smaller cities with major cities and the newly forming airline hubs. Some of these smaller regional airlines of the 1980s laid the foundation for the regional airlines of today.

Today, regional airlines largely fly on behalf of larger airlines like American, United or Delta. They generally fly regional jets and turboprop aircraft with 76 seats or less, and are flown on routes where larger aircraft wouldn’t be as economically viable. These routes often include flights to smaller cities from hubs and flights between lucrative business markets that demand high frequency. Larger airlines don’t fly these planes themselves because their cost structure is built around flying and maintaining much larger airplanes.

Some of these regional airlines are wholly owned by a major airline and others are private entities. Most of their flying is dictated by the major airlines for which they fly. In these scenarios, an airline like Delta will pay a regional airline like ExpressJet to fly routes on its behalf and with its brand. The aircraft will say Delta, your ticket will say Delta, you’ll use a Delta gate and the flight crew will welcome you aboard a Delta Connection flight, but the flight itself may be operated by ExpressJet, Endeavor, SkyWest, or other regional airlines. Each of the 3 major airlines brand the flights operated by their regional partners as Delta Connection, American Eagle, and United Express, respectively.

Without regional airlines, today’s airline industry would look very different. Airports like AVL would only have three or four flights to Atlanta and Charlotte on bigger airplanes, instead of double that frequency on smaller jets. Statistics have shown that increased flight options leads to increased travel in cities our size, which is great not only for that trip you’re planning, but also for bringing more visitors (and more visitor spending) into our region.