Federal bankruptcy court judge Stephen Mitchell has approved US Airways’ plan to enter into a new operating agreement with Indianapolis-based Republic Airways that calls for the introduction of another 32 regional jets into the US Airways Express system. The ruling gives Republic the catalyst it needs to launch a new nonunionized operating unit separate from its Chautauqua Airlines subsidiary, established specifically to fly the new batch of jets.
Although an airline spokesman declined to comment on any plans for a new operating unit, a spokesman for the local US Airways chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association confirmed that Republic management planned to start the new operation some time during this year’s “second or third quarter.” The move bears a conspicuously close resemblance to Mesa Air Group’s plans for its own nonunion operating unit called Freedom Airlines. Both Mesa’s and Chautauqua’s pilot groups voted not to accept the controversial “Jets for Jobs” provision in US Airways’ collective-bargaining agreement with ALPA, developments that essentially blocked the affiliates from adding more regional jets to their US Airways Express fleets.
Jets for Jobs requires that the airlines staff at least half of their new RJ positions with furloughed US Airways pilots. Both Republic and Freedom could potentially participate in Jets for Jobs with their nonunionized units, allowing them to continue to expand their US Airways Express fleets. ALPA, however, has filed suit against Mesa in an attempt to block Freedom Airlines from opening. An ALPA spokesman added that the union does not condone Republic’s plan, despite the jobs it could produce for US Airways pilots. The Teamsters–the union that represents Chautauqua’s pilots–at press time had yet to publicly air its position on the matter.