"It is all about fuel economy, " said David L. Campbell, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of American Eagle Airlines.
The ATR-72 can haul 72 passengers, nearly twice the capacity of the smaller planes it is replacing, and its engines, fitted with odd looking, curved six-bladed props, sip fuel in comparison to the older turboprops and regional jets.
"We are able to expand our route system, serve more passengers and use less fuel all while flying fewer aircraft," Campbell said.
American Eagle replaced 25 SAAB-340s with 12 ATRs at its D/FW hub, and is making similar adjustments at other American Airlines hubs. The savings "will add up to millions," Campbell said.
From the passengers' perspective, the ATR is a plus for several reasons.
First, its cabin is huge in comparison to the tiny SAAB's and tight fitting regional jets. It feels more like a "jetliner."
Second, and this may be most important factor for some people, passengers no longer must walk down stairs at the terminal and across a hot and smelly apron parking area to get to their plane. The ATR's pull right up to the terminal and use the jetbridges, just like the big American planes do, meaning you walk from airconditioned terminal to airconditioned airplane. No more breathing stinky kerosine fumes during the boarding process.
"This process not only improves the experience for your passengers, it improves passenger safety during the boarding process and improves security while only allowing credentialed employees around the outside of the aircraft," Campbell said.