On April 1 Switzerland’s Etihad Regional took delivery of the first of four 68-seat ATR 72-500s recently acquired under a new lease agreement with Nordic Aviation Capital. The deal, which calls for final delivery next month, will see Etihad Regional boost its fleet to 12 airplanes, including eight 50-seat Saab 2000s operated by Darwin Airline before Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways took a 33-percent stake in the Lugano-based carrier in January.
News and issues relating specifically to regional airlines, including aircraft, engines, personnel, acquisitions, accidents, safety, security and training; and coverage of annual conventions of the U.S. Regional Airline Association (RAA) and European Regions Airline Association (ERA).
American Eagle’s pilots rejected a concessionary contract proposal from management by a wide margin in late March, thereby ending any chance at flying any of the Embraer E175s American Airlines has ordered. Management promised the pilots the right to fly 60 of the 76-seat jets in return for a pay cap on first officers of $38,000 a year after four years, cuts to per diems and higher health-care premiums.
Mesa Air Group closed its Hawaii-based go! operation on April 1 following some eight years of financial struggles. According to Mesa, the decision stemmed from a desire to concentrate its resources on its now growing mainland operations and minimize its exposure to “at risk” flying. Before the cessation of Hawaiian operations, capacity purchase code-share agreements accounted for 98 percent of the group’s business.
The shortage of qualified entry-level pilots at the regional airlines hasn’t come as some unexpected phenomenon to the Regional Airline Association. The group has warned for years now that the change in first-officer pilot requirements that mandates an ATP certificate and what it terms an “arbitrary” 1,500 hours of flying time would result in loss of air service to small communities in particular.
With many of Europe’s regional airlines feeling unloved and forgotten by the central powers, ERA director general Simon McNamara has spent much of his first year visiting as many airline members as possible to understand how they tick, and what challenges they face. “We’ve put a lot more focus on the membership,” he told AIN. “And we are trying harder to let our members know what we’re doing and why.”
The debt crisis in Italy has certainly taken its toll on a wide cross section of the country’s economy, and Verona-based regional airline Air Dolomiti hasn’t enjoyed special immunity from the effects. What CEO Michael Kraus called a brilliant period of expansion from 2005 to 2010 has not only ended, but passenger counts have actually fallen over the past two years in the Italian air transport market.
While the Regional Airline Association and regional airline management point to new rules governing flight time experience for first officers as the primary reason for a pilot shortage that has resulted in a loss of service to several U.S. communities, pilots contend the airlines have made their own mess by creating a business model predicated on breadline wages for cockpit crew. The Air Line Pilots Association, for one, argues that there’s no shortage of pilots, only a shortage of pilots willing to fly for substandard wages and inadequate benefits.
Horizon Air plans to start serving communities in Alaska on March 3 with its latest tranche of Bombardier Q400s. The airline intends to use three Q400s, including the 51st in its fleet, to connect Anchorage with Fairbanks and Kodiak. Bombardier and Horizon Air celebrated delivery of the airline’s 51st Q400 during a ceremony in late January in Portland, Ore., where Horizon employees gathered with airline CEO Glenn Johnson and a delegation of manufacturer representatives from Canada. The aircraft bears a special “people-powered” livery that includes the signatures of Horizon Air employees.
Bombardier appeared to backtrack on comments in the Russian press by CEO Pierre Beaudoin indicating that the country’s annexation of Crimea could threaten the Canadian company’s planned joint venture with Russian conglomerate Rostec. On Monday a Bombardier Aerospace spokesman told AIN that the Canadian company remained “fully committed” to plans for a Q400 turboprop factory in a special economic zone in the Ulyanovsk region, and that the comments by Beaudoin didn’t refer specifically to the agreement with Rostec.
Five-month-old Indian regional airline Air Costa plans to start international operations once India lifts its rule that limits new carriers to domestic services during their first five years of operation. Ahead of that revision, the carrier, which ordered a mix of 50 Embraer E190-E2s and E195-E2s at the Singapore Air Show in February, has applied for a national permit to fly pan-India, Vivek Choudhary, chief commercial officer and vice president of corporate finance of parent company LEPL Projects, told AIN.