American Airlines bringing bigger jets to Brownsville

Brownsville — First-class seats are now available on both air carriers providing service to Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport.

American Airlines began using CRJ-900 regional jets on July 5 for nonstop service between Brownsville and Dallas-Fort Worth. Michael Jones, the airport’s business development manager, said the jets can accommodate as many as a dozen first-class seats as well as up to 58 main cabin seats and 39 main cabin “ExtrAA” seats, which feature more leg room than standard main-cabin seats.

United Airlines began offering nonstop first-class service last fall between Brownsville and Houston with CRJ-700s. Jones said the 900s are slightly newer version of the 700s and accommodate a few more seats. Both aircraft are manufactured by the Canadian company Bombardier Aerospace.

Jones said American is starting out with two CRJ-900s to serve Brownsville , with plans to eventually swap out all its smaller fleet. The carrier has been flying mainly Brazilian-made Embraer ERJ-145s and Bombardier CRJ-200s — both 50-seaters — between Brownsville and Dallas-Fort Worth, he said.

Likewise, United started with two CRJ-700s for Brownsville service with plans to replace all its 50-seaters with larger, more efficient aircraft, Jones said.

According to airline industry data analyst Diio Mi, Passengers Daily Each Way (PDEW), an industry measure of passenger activity, had been rising steadily at Brownsville until the second quarter of 2007, when PDEW began a steady downhill slide several months before the recession.

That decline reversed itself starting the third quarter of 2009, coinciding with American bringing service to the city. Despite the lag during the recession, Brownsville has seen a 46-percent overall increase in PDEW over the last decade.

PDEW stands at roughly 253 for Brownsville , 785 for Harlingen ‘s Valley International Airport and 1,015 for McAllen Miller International Airport . Compared to Brownsville ‘s 46 percent, McAllen ‘s PDEW has increased 23 percent over the last decade and Harlingen ‘s has fallen 32 percent, according to Diio Mi.

Jones said demand for first-class service for Brownsville has grown over the last decade. He noted that first-class passengers are allowed to board and deplane before other passengers, get their luggage sooner, don’t have to pay for bags, have access to faster security lines at most airports, and accumulate mileage points and other perks more quickly.

“We haven’t had first class since Braniff and Continental in the 1980s,” Jones said. “It’s a big deal for us. It really is. One of the reasons we will lose a passenger — even all the way to McAllen — is they want to fly in first class, whether they’re going on vacation or they’re working. If it’s work, they feel they need it.”