Billings, Mont.-based Big Sky Airlines officially became part of the Mesaba Holdings stable early last month after Big Sky’s shareholders tendered some 90.9 percent of their outstanding shares of common stock in a $3.5 million offer that expired on November 27. On December 3 the Fairchild Metro operator merged with Ranger Acquisition, a wholly owned subsidiary of Mesaba Holdings, creating a new division flying under an operating certificate and labor contracts separate from Mesaba Airlines. Big Sky shareholders who chose not to tender their shares retain the right to receive $2.60 per share in cash.
The deal comes amid charges from Mesaba’s pilot group that management intends to use Big Sky’s lower-paid pilots to undermine the bargaining position of the incumbent group. Mesaba, meanwhile, continues what CEO Paul Foley described as a “tediously slow and painful” process of labor negotiations with ALPA, made more so by the pilots’ desire to win back concessions they yielded during their last contract talks in 1996. Mesaba pilots aired their grievances publicly during informational picketing the day before Thanksgiving in Detroit and Minneapolis. Now under federal mediation, the negotiations have yielded little progress since talks began 18 months ago.