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Pinnacle To Continue On As Delta Connection Carrier

Signs New Contract Running Through 2017

Even as many carriers are trimming down the number of routes flown by regional airliners, Atlanta-based Delta is adding to the number of newer RJs flying under its brand. Delta signed a new agreement Monday with Pinnacle Airlines, that will run through 2017.

BusinessWeek reports Delta had planned to cancel its contract with Pinnacle at the end of this month, with the airline only receiving nine of the 16 Bombardier CRJ900s slated to operate Delta Connection routes. Pinnacle will now take delivery of the last seven planes by May 2009.

The move comes two weeks after Delta announced the termination of its agreement with ExpressJet, which had been flying a 23-plane fleet of 50-seat Embraer EMB-145s on Delta Connection routes.

Though the ExpressJet news and the Pinnacle announcement aren't directly related, both are indicative of a general marketplace shift from smaller regional aircraft -- which, despite relatively economical fuel usage figures, generate horrible cost-per-available-seat-mile (CASM) numbers in the face of high fuel prices -- to larger planes. The CRJ900 can hold as many as 90 passengers.

Perhaps just as significant, Pinnacle is the largest regional provider for Northwest Airlines... which will soon come under the Delta banner, if a proposed merger of the two carriers is approved by regulators.

FMI: www.delta.com, www.flypinnacle.com

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