While the recession has affected the balance sheets of most big network airlines, smaller regional airlines everywhere are often finding new opportunities as their airplanes are pressed into service on routes formerly flown by the big guys with the big jets according to USA Today.
As network airlines are shrinking, regional airlines have grown by at least 10% over the past decade according to the Regional Airline Association. Today, regional jets carry one in four domestic passengers and account for more than half of all U.S. departures. Regional carriers serve nearly every U.S. airport with scheduled commercial airline service and provide the only means of scheduled air transportation to 442 communities or approximately 70% of all U.S. airports with scheduled service.
In many cases flying regional jets is the only way to make money on routes where travel demand is down. While the five U.S. network airlines (Delta and Northwest now combined) posted a $4.4 billion operating loss over the past 12 months, the top 20 regional airlines collectively turned a $785 million profit with only one major regional carrier in the red.