Five years as an association president might seem like a modest stint to some, but Debby McElroy has seen enough in her tenure at the RAA to last a lifetime.
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.
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.
Indianapolis-based Chautauqua Airlines has transferred the last of its once 23-strong fleet of Embraer 170 jets to its sister carrier, Shuttle America. The move relieves parent company Republic Airways of penalties it has had to pay American Airlines for scope-clause violations. The contract signed by American and its pilots prohibits any American Connection carrier from flying jets that hold more than 50 seats for any partner.
SkyWest Airlines and Bombardier have agreed to convert a firm order for 18 CRJ200s held by SkyWest’s new Atlantic Southeast Airlines division to positions on 70-seat CRJ700s. As part of the deal, SkyWest has also placed firm orders for another four CRJ700s, all to fly under its Delta Connection contract. The deal coincided with a U.S.
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.
NTSB public hearings are scheduled to take place June 13 to 15 on the crash of a Pinnacle Airlines Bombardier CL-600 regional jet in Jefferson City, Mo., on October 14 last year. The two crewmembers were killed. There were no passengers on board and no injuries on the ground. The flight was repositioning from Little Rock, Ark., to Minneapolis-St. Paul when it lost power in both engines at FL410.