It’s always good to get the US DoT’s T-2 update.  This may be one of the most useful datasets as it has lots of the metrics we use for modeling.  Here’s an example of the fleet fuel burn, now updated through 1Q22. The aircraft are listed in descending order, from best to worst fuel burn on a seat miles/gallon basis. This is our fleet fuel burn update. Subscribers have access to the full model.

Let’s start with regional aircraft. The greener the number, the better.  On that basis what we see here is not good – regional jets are not particularly fuel-efficient.  Larger models do better than smaller models.  This explains the move to the larger models that bump up against Scope Clause limits.  By the way, look at what happens to the CRJ700 when it is turned into a CRJ550.  The data suggest a limited future for US regional airlines. 

Absent a step change in aircraft engine technology, where fuel burn drops by a lot, more communities will lose air service.  The need to consider, even as an interim step, deploying turboprops seems self-evident.  The average stage length for turboprops in 1Q22 was 268 miles compared to 489 miles for regional jets. The average number of seats on turboprop was 63.2 compared to 68.4 on a regional jet. The kicker is that, on a seat miles/gallon basis, current turboprops deliver about 75% better fuel burn. Imagine the disruption hybrids offer?

Next, let’s look at single aisles.  The best in class remains the A321neo by some margin over the MAX9. The top performers are over the benchmark 100 seat miles/gallon.

  • Coming in at #3 is the E-195 which is deployed by Breeze, but note the 2022 number is much lower than 2021.  This is one to watch in 2Q22. Also, note the E-195 is #3 and the E-190 is at the bottom of the list. 
  • Another eye-catching performer is the A220-300 which is doing better than the A220-100.  When singling out Delta, the only US airline with both models in service, the gap is 13%.
  • The MAX9 is doing over 21% better than the 737-900ER which is a great improvement
  • The A321neo is doing 31% better than the A321ceo.  This is remarkable and influenced by ULCCs.  If we limit to network airlines only, the improvement rises to 39%!

In terms of the fleet fuel burn update, it is clear US airlines are improving ESG scores by moving to the latest generation aircraft.  But US regionals are suffering from the Scope Clause noose.  We have argued that Delta deploying the A220-100 might solve part of this problem, allowing it to cherry-pick the best regional routes for this larger aircraft.  On an average basis, Delta could be seeing nearly 39% better economics using an A220-100 over an E-175.  Clearly, this is a broad brush statement and requires further detailed analysis.  But the gap is large enough for American and United to also consider deploying “crossover” jets. Besides the A220, Embraer has a superb offering in their E2, too.

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Co-Founder AirInsight. My previous life includes stints at Shell South Africa, CIC Research, and PA Consulting. Got bitten by the aviation bug and ended up an Avgeek. Then the data bug got me, making me a curious Avgeek seeking data-driven logic. Also, I appreciate conversations with smart people from whom I learn so much. Summary: I am very fortunate to work with and converse with great people.

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