Mainline (aeronautics)

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A mainline flight by an American Airlines Boeing 777-223ER lands at London Heathrow Airport, England
Unlike many other airlines, JetBlue's mainline equipment includes the Emb-190. On traditional legacy carriers, such operations on the smaller aircraft are mostly outsourced to smaller, usually independently owned regional airlines.

A mainline flight is a flight operated by an airline's main operating unit, rather than by regional alliances, regional code-shares, regional subsidiaries, or wholly owned subsidiaries offering low-cost operations. Mainline carriers typically operate between hub airports within their network and on international or long-haul services, using narrow-body and wide-body aircraft. This is in contrast to regional airlines, providing feeder services to hub airports operating smaller turboprop or regional jet aircraft, or low-cost carrier subsidiaries serving leisure markets.

In the United States, examples of mainline passenger airline flights include those operated by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and United Airlines; but not flights operated by regional airlines Envoy Air, Executive Airlines, Piedmont Airlines, or PSA Airlines with regional jets or the services of regional airline marketing brands such as American Eagle, Delta Connection, or United Express aboard lower-capacity narrowbody jets and turboprop aircraft, such as those produced by Embraer or Bombardier, that do not have transcontinental range.

U.S. legacy carriers may operate branded mainline services using the same flight crews and AOC as that of their mainline operations. For example, United p.s. and American Flagship Service cater to the medium-haul transcontinental business segment. Short-haul air shuttles, such as Delta Shuttle, operate at high frequency intervals between busy city pairs. Previously, U.S. legacy carriers operated low-cost air services within their mainline operations to compete with low-cost carriers; these operations were short-lived and included brands such as Continental Lite, Song (Delta), and Ted (United). Outside the U.S., low-cost carrier subsidiary airlines are more common, with examples including Air Canada Rouge, Jetstar Airways (subsidiary of Qantas), and Eurowings (subsidiary of Lufthansa).

An airline carrier's collective bargaining agreement with flight crews stipulates the maximum seating capacity of regional aircraft; as such, any aircraft that exceeds this capacity must operate as a mainline flight. The converse is not the case; mainline flight crews, with proper type ratings, may operate aircraft that are smaller than typical mainline aircraft.

Mainline Subsidiary Carriers and Airline within an Airline Brands[edit]

Mainline Air
Carrier
Banner marketing & brands
(Air divisions operating as)
Larger-medium longer range
jet airliner subsidiary brands
Smaller-regional shorter range
airliner subsidiaries
Flag - Legacy - Major
Aerolíneas Argentinas
Austral Líneas Aéreas
Air Canada
Air Canada Express
Air Canada Rouge
Air France
KLM
(Air France-KLM)
HOP!
KLM CityHopper
Transavia
Transavia France
Air India
(Air India Limited)
Air India Express
Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand Link
Air Nelson
Mount Cook Airlines
Alaska Airlines
(Alaska Air Group)
Alaska Horizon
Alaska SkyWest
Horizon Air
Alitalia
(Compangne Aerea Alitalia)
Alitalia Cityliner
All Nippon Airways
Air Japan
ANA Wings1
Peach
Vanilla Air
American Airlines
(American Airlines Group)
American Eagle
American Airlines Shuttle
Envoy Air
PSA Airlines
Piedmont Airlines
Delta Air Lines
Delta Connection
Delta Shuttle
Endeavor Air
EgyptAir
Air Cairo
Air Sinai
EgyptAir Express
El Al
Sun d'Or
UP
Garuda Indonesia
Explore
Explore Jet
Citilink
Aeromexico
(Grupo Aeromexico)
Aeromexico Connect
Aeromexico Connect
Hawaiian Airlines
(Hawaiian Holdings Inc.)
'Ohana by Hawaiian
Aer Lingus
British Airways
Iberia Airlines
(International Airlines Group)
Aer Lingus Regional
BA CityFlyer[1]
Level
Iberia Express
OpenSkies
Vueling
BA CityFlyer
Japan Airlines
Jetstar (Japan)
Japan Transocean Air1
J-Air
Japan Air Commuter
Ryukyu Air Commuter
Kenya Airways
Jambojet
Korean Air Lines
(Hanjin Group)
Jin Air
Asiana Airlines
(Kumho Asiana Group)
Air Busan
Air Seoul
LATAM Brasil
LATAM Chile
(LATAM Airlines Group)
LATAM (Argentina)
LATAM (Colombia)
LATAM (Ecuador)
LATAM (Perú)
LATAM Express
LATAM Paraguay
LOT Polish Airlines
Austrian Airlines
Brussels Airlines
Lufthansa
Swiss International Air Lines
(Lufthansa Air Group)
Eurowings
Lufthansa Regional
Edelweiss Air
Eurowings
Eurowings Europe
Germanwings
SunExpress
SunExpress Deutschland
Swiss Global Air Lines
Air Dolomiti
Lufthansa CityLine
Philippine Airlines
(PAL Holdings Inc.)
PAL Express
Royal Air Maroc
Royal Air Maroc Express
Scandinavian Airlines
(SAS Group)
d/b/a Scandinavian, Cimber Air
d/b/a Scandinavian, City Jet
d/b/a Scandinavian, FlyBE
d/b/a Scandinavian, PrivatAir
Singapore Airlines
Scoot
Silk Air1
Tigerair
South African Airways
Mango
Thai Airways
(Thai Ministry of Finance)
Nok Air
Thai Smile
Czech Airlines
(Travel Service)
SmartWings
Qantas
Jetstar (Asia)
Jetstar (Japan)
Jetstar (Pacific)
QantasLink
Jetstar Airways
Cobham Aviation Services Australia
Eastern Australia Airlines
Network Aviation
Sunstate Airlines
Vietnam Airlines
Cambodia Angkor Air
Jetstar Pacific
Vietnam Air Services Company
United Airlines
United Express
United p.s.
Discount - ULCC Virtuals
NONE
(Comair Limited)
British Airways operated by Comair
Kulula
Cebu Pacific
Cebgo
JetBlue
JetBlue Mint
Jetstar Asia
(Westbrook Holdings)
Jetstar Japan
Norwegian's Airline Group2
(Norwegian Air Shuttle)
Norwegian
Norwegian Air Argentina
Norwegian Air Shuttle
Norwegian Air International
Norwegian Air UK
Norwegian Long Haul
TUI's Airline Group2
(TUI Group)
TUI fly
Corsair International
TUI fly Belgium
TUI fly Deutschland
TUI fly Netherlands
TUI fly Nordic
TUI fly UK (Thomson)
Virgin Australia Airlines
(Virgin Australia Holdings)
Virgin Australia
Tigerair Australia
Virgin Australia Regional Airlines1
WestJet
WestJet Encore
WestJet Encore

Notes:

1Though not part of the main "legacy airline" or "flag carrier"; these particular airlines are often described as "regional airlines" by the mainline airline counterparts they are affiliated or owned by.
2These airline businesses resultant of airline liberalization in Europe, really do not have a "mainline brand;" but do have unified brandings across multiple individual airline certificates forming "virtual airlines" much like the American Eagle, Delta Connection, and United Express banner branded regional airlines in the United States.

North American Mainline Carrier's Regional Affiliates[edit]

Embraer E-190. Similarly to JetBlue, US Airways and at one time, Air Canada both operated the Embraer 190 as part of their mainline fleets.
JetBlue's affiliate Cape Air at Logan International Airport.
United's affiliate GoJet at O'Hare International Airport in full United Express colors
Mainline
Airline
Regional Marketing Brand 1 Regional Airline Affiliates2
(Independently Owned)
Flag carriers
Aeromexico
Aeromexico Connect
No regional affiliate
Air Canada
Air Canada Express
Air Georgian4
Exploits Valley Air Services4
Jazz4
Sky Regional Airlines4
Legacy carriers
Alaska Airlines
Alaska Horizon
Alaska SkyWest
SkyWest Airlines4
American Airlines
American Eagle
See: American Eagle
Delta Air Lines
Delta Connection
See: Delta Connection
Hawaiian Airlines
'Ohana by Hawaiian
Empire Airlines
United Airlines
United Express
See: United Express
Low-cost carriers
Interjet
No regional brand
No regional affiliate
JetBlue Airways
No regional brand
Cape Air3
Southwest Airlines
No regional brand
No regional affiliate
Sun Country Airlines
No regional brand
No regional affiliate
ULCC's
Allegiant Airlines
No regional brand
No regional affiliate
Frontier Airlines
No regional brand
Great Lakes Aviation3
Spirit Airlines
No regional brand
No regional affiliate
Volaris
No regional brand
No regional affiliate

Notes:
1 Branding used for regional feeder service and commuter flights. Operated either by a regional subsidiary or under contract by an independent regional airline.
2These airlines are independent and not subsidiaries of mainline air carriers.
3 These independent airlines operate regional aircraft under codeshare agreements with a mainline carrier.
4 Independent airlines operating under a capacity purchase agreement with their mainline partner

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

[1] AA and early references to mainline, regional and B-scale.
[2] Business model of new Airlines like GLO not operating their own aircraft but leasing them from other certificated air carriers, and creating their own airline brand without the actual assets of a true airline.