US Airways to Add First Class on Regional Jets
The carrier will install first class seats on its Embraer 175 regional jets starting in October, and expand the roll out to its Embraer 170 and Canadair Regional Jet 700 and 900 aircraft by the end of January 2012.
US Airways said it will have the highest percentage of daily departures with first class cabins of the four major network carriers, including rivals American, United and Delta Air Lines.
"The competition is sort of forcing them to do it," aviation analyst Michael Boyd said of US Airways' first class upgrade.
"With these updates we hope to attract new customers – those who may not have chosen to fly with US Airways before may reconsider now that they can connect from small and medium sized markets in first class," said US Airways spokesman Andrew Christie Jr.
US Airways operates regional jet service on 38 E175 jets through Republic Airways, Mesa and PSA, and each plane will have eight first class seats out of 80 total seats. The other aircraft will all have nine first class seats each.
To make way for the first class seats the carrier will remove seven coach seats from its CRJ-900 and EMB-170 jets, six from the EMB-175 jets and three from the CRJ-700 jets.
The airline said it expects the addition of first class seats will be "revenue positive" in the first year due to additional revenue from first class sales and the sale of upgrades, however Dividend Miles Preferred members will also get free upgrades.
US Airways said travelers in the new first class seats will get bonus miles for flying in first class, as well as early boarding, priority baggage handling, priority check-in and security clearance.
First class passengers get free alcoholic beverages and snacks and the airline said that starting April 1, it added new snacks and improved meals to domestic first class flights lasting 1.5 to 3.5 hours.
New snack options include Late July Bite Size Cheddar Cheddar Cheese Crackers, Baking Co. Chocobilly's chocolate chip cookies and Newtons Mixed Berry fruit crisps. On longer flights, first class customers now have an upgraded breakfast, lunch or dinner with a choice of two hot entrees.
Starting May 1, US Airways is also upgrading its business class meals on flights to Europe, South America and the Middle East. The menus will feature a signature six-ounce American-style beef filet , plus three other options.
The spate of recent airline mergers, including United Continental and Southwest and AirTran, has airlines scrambling to maintain customer loyalty and reward their best travelers with more perks.
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