United removing seats from Embraer E175 as October 1 layoffs near

  • United is reducing seats on its Embraer E175 aircraft from 76 to 70 to comply with a clause of its pilot union contract, FlightGlobal reported.
  • The “scope clause” in the contract limits the role of regional aircraft, preventing United from outsourcing too many flying jobs to its smaller partner airlines. 
  • October 1 will likely see the airline begin to furlough pilots, at which point regional jets will need to be compliant to the new restrictions under the clause. 
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United Airlines’ Embraer E175 aircraft are heading to the maintenance hangar for a retrofit that will actually reduce their total number of seats.

The largest regional jets operated under the United Express brand will purposely be made less economical to fly thanks to what’s known as a “scope clause” in United’s pilot contract, FlightGlobal reported. The six-seat reduction from 76 to 70 seats on all of its Embraer E175s is mandatory per the contract as United plans to furlough pilots – which triggers the seat removal, United told AviationWeek – after assistance under the CARES Act vanishes on October 1.

Though it seems counterintuitive to make a plane less capable of generating revenue during the pandemic – considering United has committed to filling its planes to capacity – the move is actually protecting United’s pilots. As part of a deal with the pilot union, United can have 255 regional jets that seat greater than 50 and no more than 76 seats, according to FlightGlobal.

The reduction in demand that the pandemic has inflicted would have made regional jets more attractive to fly since they carry fewer passengers further at a lower cost than mainline jets. But having those scope limitations in place is preventing United from outsourcing its mainline operation to the regional partners.  

Here’s how it hurting and helping passengers.

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