The profound damage inflicted by the September 11 terrorist attacks brought changes to the U.S. airline industry the most prescient observer could not have envisioned three months ago. Twenty-percent industrywide capacity cuts, furloughs and layoffs, large-scale route transfers from mainline carriers to regional affiliates and aircraft delivery deferrals have all marked one of the most volatile periods in the industry’s history.
Delta Air Lines
Divergent conditions in the regional airline business and the business jet realm have conspired to create a potential boon for completion companies involved in converting Bombardier CRJs into executive transports.
In a move widely expected to portend an industry trend in years to come, Continental Airlines last month confirmed its intention to sell 20 percent of its now wholly owned Continental Express subsidiary on September 1, laying the foundation for an eventual full spin-off of the Houston-based regional airline.
An unsettling air of ambivalence descended on Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Airport last month as Comair pilots ended an 89-day strike that cost Delta Air Lines at least $200 million and an untold number of non-striking employees their jobs.
Mesa Air Group last month reversed its decision to establish a new Cincinnati base and canceled all the flights scheduled to six cities from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport for July 8. Mesa contacted all affected passengers and reaccommodated them on Delta Air Lines or Comair flights.
Bombardier won a long-anticipated and hard-fought operational lease deal from Northwest Airlines for 75 CRJ-440 regional jets, the newly designated 44-passenger version of the 50-seat CRJ-200. The airline has also taken options on an additional 175 CRJ-440s.
At EBACE this week, Tailwind Capital unveiled the first of five Bombardier CRJ conversions it plans to sell to business aviation customers. Called the Hemisphere 200XR, the airplane will go to Dutch concern Solidair outfitted with a 15-passenger cabin and an FAA-certified fuel system that extends range out to 3,000 nm.
Airline executives whose predictions of regional divestitures raised eyebrows just two years ago watched their prophesies turn to hard reality in late February, as Northwest Airlines announced its intention to spin off its Memphis-based Express Airlines I subsidiary and Continental Airlines revisited its plans to divest itself from Continental Express.
Shortly after announcing plans to accept delivery of another 10 ex-Comair Canadair Regional Jets, St. George, Utah-based SkyWest Airlines negotiated a revision to its code-share contract with Delta Air Lines that will allow it to fly exclusively under a fee-per-departure arrangement.
Jonathan Ornstein has learned something over the years about mending fences–and breaking down barriers. Although the outspoken and sometimes brash chairman and CEO of Phoenix-based Mesa Air Group has fought his share of battles during his 13 years in the airline business, Ornstein has found ways to overcome conflicts with those he needs to survive and prosper.