As part of their bankruptcy restructuring, American Eagle president and CEO Dan Garton said Tuesday in a letter to employees that the regional airline will cut nearly all ATR 72 turboprop aircraft from their fleet by the end of January.
American Eagle currently flies 47 daily flights between 14 cities with leased turboprop aircraft.
With the leases soon to expire anyway, Eagle has decided to accelerate the return of those ATR 72s effective Jan. 31. All impacted routes will then be serviced by the more efficient Embraer 44- and 50-seat regional jets.
Additionally, American Eagle is canceling two daily flights between Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Fayetteville, N.C. (a popular route for military customers) as well as a seasonal flight from DFW to Augusta.
"The two largest military bases are Fort Hood and Fort Bragg and there's a lot of soldiers that go back and forth and if they don't make this flight, if they're not able to get this flight, then it's just going to put them out," said Dawn McLaurin, of Fayetteville.
Even though the cancellation of the Fayetteville flight didn't sit well with some passengers, it makes sense from a business standpoint.
"They're going to ground as many of the flights that don't make money as they can and then they're going to tweak their schedule to make it even more economical even for the ones that make money," said Denny Kelly, airline industry analyst. "You take the big regional jet that they fly. They can haul more people than they can with the ATR, they can do it quicker and they can do it cheaper, so why not do it? I mean, it makes sense."
"Clearly, the timing of this announcement so close to the holidays is unfortunate – but we are committed to sharing information with you as soon as we can. We regret the impact on our people – not only the DFW-based Executive Airlines employees and those who work in support of that operation who are directly affected, but the other employees who may also be impacted through displacement," Garton said.
Employees who are affected by these changes will be notified in January, Garton said.
"The restructuring process to shape American Eagle into a more competitive and successful company is both complex and challenging. But we are committed to working swiftly and making the necessary changes toward providing a brighter future for all of us," Garton said.
After Jan. 31, only 18 ATR 72s will remain in American Eagle's fleet of prop aircraft and all of those will be used to fly between Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
NBC 5's Kevin Cokely contributed to this report.