Scope clause

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A scope clause is part of a contract between an airline and a pilot union. Generally, these clauses are used by the union of a major airline to limit the number and/or size of aircraft that airline may contract out to a Regional airline. The goal is to protect union jobs at the major airline from being outsourced to regional airlines operating larger aircraft.[1] In 2016, the limit was at 76 seats and a 86,000 lb (39 t) maximum takeoff weight, until 2019 at United Airlines and 2020 at Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, limiting the sales of the new Mitsubishi MRJ90 and Embraer 175-E2 to the smaller MRJ70 and current ERJ-175.[2]

Influence on airlines[edit]

Scope clauses place restrictions on how many and what size of aircraft a regional airline may operate. Some holding companies operate a large number of individual airlines, with each airline's fleet specifically tuned to the scope clause of that airline's contracted major carrier.[3]

Select Scope Clause Limitations[4]
Carrier Up to 50 Seats 51 - 76 Seats 77+ Seats Some Key Limitations
American < 110 percent of mainline narrowbody aircraft, < 64,500 pounds American Eagle CRJ-700s Exception < 1.25 percent of mainline block hours
Continental < 274 or with mainline growth No Express between hubs
Delta unlimited 51-70 seats : < 255 , 71-76 seats : < 120 (or with mainline growth) 85% < 900 miles, 90 % to/from hubs
United No limit No limit < 70 seats hours < mainline. UA routes flown in last 24 months prohibited unless UA unprofitable
US Airways East < 53,000 lb, 40-44 seats: < 150; 45-50 seats : Medium RJs 51-88 seats : Large RJs; Large+Medium RJs <315 (or with mainline growth) See below 80 % < 950 miles
US Airways West < 88 two-class / < 90 one-class up to 93 CRJ-900 or equivalent

Influence on aircraft manufacturers[edit]

Scope clauses have a major influence on manufacturers of regional aircraft. Manufacturers will create airplanes specifically tuned to the scope clauses of most airlines. For this reason and others, regional aircraft tend to be manufactured in families, and competing regional aircraft will often have identical seating capacity.[5]

seats 34 44 50 70 90
Bombardier Dash 8-100/200 CRJ200, DHC-8-300 CRJ700, Q400 CRJ900
Embraer ERJ 135 ERJ 140 ERJ 145 E-170 E-175
Dornier 328, 328JET 428JET 528 728 928

Support and criticism[edit]

Scope clauses are supported as a means of saving union jobs. Additionally, major airline pilots are usually higher paid than regional pilots, and there is a perceived safety advantage in favor of major airlines. Criticism of scope clauses centers on the limits they place on the regional airlines they target. They are seen as a way of artificially maintaining the pay of major airline pilots when regional pilots will in theory fly the same size airplanes for less pay.[6]


  1. ^ "A case of Real Job Protection". Negociations. American Airlines. June 26, 2009. 
  2. ^ Gregory Polek (December 2, 2016). "Embraer Delays E175-E2 Entry Into Service By a Year". Aviation International News. 
  3. ^ Flint, Perry. "NWA aims to end scope clause restrictions on large RJs in new pilot contract". Retrieved 13 November 2010. 
  4. ^ William S. Swelbar (March 2010). "The Future of Scope Clauses" (PDF). 35th Annual FAA Aviation Forecast Conference. MIT International Center for Air Transportation. 
  5. ^ Pilcher, James. "Delta 'scope' limiting growth". Retrieved 13 November 2010. 
  6. ^ "Ten things every airline pilot should know about scope". Retrieved 13 November 2010.