The giant sucking sound generated by the bankruptcies of two of the largest airlines in the U.S. echoed last month through the financial community and across the air transport industry, including the regional airline sector. Among Delta’s various partners, wholly owned Comair stands to feel the most profound repercussions because it now too operates under Chapter 11 protection.
Delta Air Lines
Mesaba Airlines became the latest casualty of Northwest Airlines’ financial meltdown last month, when it followed its sole mainline code-share partner into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The move followed weeks of speculation about the effects of Northwest’s failure to pay its Airlink partners millions of dollars in flying fees and subsequent plans to remove as much as half of the seating capacity from Mesaba’s fleet.
Comair will dispose of as many as 30 regional jets and slash between 600 and 1,000 jobs as part of a plan to cut costs by $70 million a year, the company announced last month.
Northwest Airlines has presented its pilot union leaders with a plan to start a new subsidiary specifically to replace the airline’s aged Douglas DC-9s with 70- to 100-seat regional jets. Employee compensation would fall to levels common among regional airlines flying 50- and 70-seat RJs, meaning Northwest’s DC-9 pilots would earn about half what they earn now and lose pension and 401(k) benefits.
SkyWest Airlines parted ways with Continental Airlines earlier this year in large part because the Houston-based major airline wanted its regional partner to fly 50-seat Saab 2000s, SkyWest CEO Jerry Atkin told AIN during last month’s RAA convention in Cincinnati.
Delta Air Lines sent another clear message to its wholly owned affiliates that it won’t hesitate to outsource more regional jet flying to independent partners when it signed Mesa Air Group as the latest Delta Connection carrier last month. The 12-year deal gives Mesa’s Freedom Airlines subsidiary the right to fly up to 30 fifty-seat Bombardier CRJ200s for Delta, the first of which it expects to put into service in October.
A group of current and former airline pilots rallied on Capitol Hill in late May to protest the 45-year-old FAA regulation that forces Part 121 pilots to leave the cockpit once they reach age 60.
The group actually spent several days drumming up support for two bills currently making their way through Congress. H.R.65 andS.65 would raise the mandatory retirement age to the Social Security retirement age.
Bombardier announced a 100,000-sq-ft expansion plan at its factory-owned service center at Love Field in Dallas. Construction will begin in the fall and is expected to take one year.
Charter operator Delta AirElite is offering a 10-hour Fleet Membership program through September 30. Pricing for the new program, called Perfect 10, starts at $41,400 for 10 hours in the light jet category, $59,900 for a midsize aircraft and $102,900 for a large aircraft. The program guarantees aircraft availability with 12 hours’ notice, and members can fly all or a portion of their hours as one-way flights.
Mesa Air Group has taken responsibility for part of the lease payments on some 30 idle Fairchild Dornier 328Jets as a condition of its new code-share contract with Delta Air Lines. Scheduled to start Delta Connection service with five Embraer ERJ 145s next month, Mesa doesn’t plan to fly the German-built regional jets but sublease them to other airlines.