The impact of regional jets on air service at selected US airports and markets

Regional jets, normally defined as jet aircraft introduced since 1993 with less than 100 seats, have been thought to have significant impacts on air services at airports, for example, in improving service frequency, allowing airlines to exploit niche markets and to feed hubs. Previous studies have focused on regional jet deployment strategy and the overall situation and they suggest that deployment was generally to larger cities first and, in addition, to locations east of the Mississippi. It has also been suggested that smaller airports might lose service when regional jets replace turbo-props and that carrier competition would increase, to the benefit of the consumer. This paper aims to throw more light on these issues from the individual airports’ point of view. Data on changes in schedules from the Official Airline Guide (OAG) at a series of case study airports from 1994 to 2002 is used to examine, the impacts on new route development, market dynamics, carrier competition and concentration and deployment status. In particular, the impact on smaller airports is examined. It is concluded, subject to the usual caveats on sample size, that there is little evidence of a uniform impact on routes or airports. The aggregate picture often described by the industry and government is shown to be a combination of highly dissimilar cases. A spectrum of effects is identified across different types of airports and routes but some of the anticipated trends, such as hub bypassing, are not observed. Some airports reaped significant benefits in terms of improved frequency and services to new destinations, whilst others gained little.