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Regional carrier Air Wisconsin ditches United Airlines for American Airlines

Aug. 22, 2022
3 min read
LaGuardia Airport, New York City
Regional carrier Air Wisconsin ditches United Airlines for American Airlines
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Air Wisconsin, one of the oldest and most storied regional airlines, has a new partner.

Starting no later than March, the regional will switch from United Airlines to American Airlines, American announced Monday.

The new agreement, known in the industry as a capacity purchase agreement, will cover up to 60 of the 50-seat Canadair Regional Jet 200 aircraft based at American's O'Hare International Airport (ORD) hub in Chicago — not far from Air Wisconsin's base in Appleton, Wisconsin. The initial agreement is for 40 CRJs to ramp up between March and October, with the possibility to add 20 more aircraft, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The new agreement also leaves open a nonbinding possibility of Air Wisconsin operating the larger CRJ-700 aircraft.

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"Our wholly owned and partner regional carriers strengthen our network by providing safe, reliable and convenient service from small- and medium-size communities to our hubs," Derek Kerr, American's chief financial officer, said in a note to American's staff. "They supply the right equipment to meet customer demand across all cities in our network. Air Wisconsin and its 1,100 team members will be a fantastic addition to the American Eagle family."

Monday's announcement means Air Wisconsin will end its latest flying agreement with United — the airline that it has been most closely associated with throughout the years. At one point, United even owned the regional carrier.

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Air Wisconsin currently operates flights for United out of the carrier's hubs at O'Hare and Dulles International Airport (IAD). The carrier's footprint has shrunk recently as it, like some other regional carriers, weathers an industrywide pilot shortage.

Last year, United announced that it planned to phase out single-cabin 50-seat flying. A United spokesperson told TPG that today's announcement is part of that strategy.

"This decision is consistent with our previously announced United Next growth strategy, where we plan to fly more larger narrowbody aircraft within our domestic network," the United spokesperson told TPG. "We expect that Air Wisconsin will continue to fly as a United Express carrier into 2023."

Air Wisconsin previously operated as US Airways Express from August 2005 to October 2015; it then operated as American Eagle from October 2015 to February 2018, when US Airways and American Airlines operations were combined. The regional airline began exclusive operations as United Express in March 2018, according to Cirium schedule data. The airline also operated as United Express prior to 2005, with an additional stint operating regional flights for AirTran.

Related: How a pilot shortage could leave travelers with higher fares and fewer options

Air Wisconsin also partners with United as part of its United Aviate program — a streamlined pilot pathway program designed to make it easier to hire pilots at mainline United. According to United's Aviate program guide, Air Wisconsin's pilots who participate in Aviate will continue to be eligible for a job at United, even though Air Wisconsin will no longer be flying for United Express.

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