Delta Begins CRJ-550 Operations

While the news last week that Delta had returned the CRJ-200 to the fleet was less than stellar there is finally some good news to share. The CRJ-200 is a temporary solution by regional partner SkyWest until they can get the CRJ-550 fleet into service and now, the first of 19 CRJ-550’s has taken to the skies.

Delta Connection CRJ-550
SkyWest is operating the CRJ-550 on behalf of Delta Connection.

While FlightAware and other airplane tracking sites haven’t updated the aircraft type to the CRJ-550 on their website, SkyWest has confirmed that N708EV is the first CRJ-550 to be introduced for revenue service on Delta Connection. The aircraft has quietly been flying between Delta’s Salt Lake City (SLC) hub and destinations in the mountain west over the 4th of July weekend.

What is the CRJ-550 and Why is Everyone so Excited?

At its core, the CRJ-550 is just a modified CRJ-700 equipped with 50 seats. This is done to navigate airline scope clauses that limit the number of larger regional jets each airline can operate as part of their pilot contracts.

While a typical CRJ-700 can feature up to 76 seats, the CRJ-550 is equipped with only 50 seats to get around the scope clause. This fills a major hole in the Delta Connection fleet as the airline retires the 50-seat, all Economy CRJ-200s

Since the CRJ-550 is larger than the -200 variant, the airline can install a premium heavy layout to fill the space. The plane will be equipped in a three-class layout featuring First Class, Comfort+, and Economy in the following configuration:

  • 10 First Class Seats
  • 20 Extra Legroom Comfort+ Seats
  • 20 Economy Class Seats
Delta CRJ-550 Specifications
Delta CRJ-550 Specifications

With 60% of the seats being First Class or Comfort+ this plane will have one of the easiest upgrade odds in the fleet for Delta elites. The airline also installed onboard closets which can be used to store larger carry-on bags.

The CRJ-550 is great for frequent flyers and regular travelers alike. The percentage of premium seats is great for elites looking for upgrades and the onboard storage means more passengers can bring on their carry-on luggage without needing to gate check them. It also represents a massive upgrade over the CRJ-200s that were widely loathed by travelers.

Delta’s First CRJ-550 Routes

SkyWest has begun flying to the following four destinations from Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC):

  • Bert Mooney Airport (Butte, MT) (BTM)
  • Cedar City Regional Airport (CDC)
  • Elko Regional Airport (EKO)
  • Yellowstone Airport (West Yellowstone, MT) (WYS)
Map of Delta Connection CRJ-550 Routes
Map of Delta Connection CRJ-550 Routes

All of the routes are very short with the shortest being 200 miles (SLC-EKO) and the longest being 358 miles (SLC-BTM). Prior to the introduction of the CRJ-550, Delta Connection was operating the CRJ-900 on these routes. While this is a net decrease in capacity, the overall passenger experience will be much better.

As the airline continues to bring more CRJ-550s online, I expect the route networks to expand dramatically and wouldn’t be surprised to see these cities replaced with more premium-heavy options.

UPDATE: According to a thread on FlyerTalk, N708EV, the lone CRJ-550 being operated for Delta, is grounded in Salt Lake City while the airline’s IT works to add the new aircraft type to the system. The plane last flew Sunday night.


Delta’s new CRJ-550 quietly made its debut last week with regional partner SkyWest operating the aircraft on four routes from Salt Lake City. As more CRJ-550s come online I expect the dreaded CRJ-200s will be re-retired and we’ll see a significant expansion of the CRJ-550 routes.

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