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.
Frontier Airlines has chosen to establish its own regional subsidiary to fly Bombardier Q400s last month rather than recruit its regional code-share partner and the only other airline to fly the type in the continental U.S., Seattle-based Horizon Air. The
ExpressJet began shopping in earnest for a new mainline partner last month as Continental Airlines prepared to ask for bids from other regional airlines to fly roughly a quarter of the Continental Express network. Continental formally notified ExpressJet that it planned to withdraw 69 of the 274 Embraer regional jets from their capacity purchase agreement after the sides failed to reach terms on a new service contract.
A tentative labor accord reached last month between Northwest Airlines and the Air Line Pilots Association includes scope-clause language that would allow the airline to establish a new regional subsidiary, but only to fly airplanes certified to carry between 51 and 76 seats.
While at first it seemed hard to reconcile the rather dark and anxious mood of last year’s RAA Convention in Cincinnati with double-digit profit margins and record revenues, by the end of the three-day event it became clear to everyone what regional airline executives had seen coming for years.
Delta Air Lines looked to become the latest U.S. carrier to stretch its scope-clause limits when Air Line Pilots Association leadership agreed to allow regional jets certified to carry between 71 and 76 seats to fly under the Delta Connection brand starting next year.
Which type of public air-transport service is safest–mainline, regional or low-cost carrier (LCC)? It might be a surprise, given possible assumptions about the perceived priorities at the various carrier types, that a recent report suggests the LCCs are safest.
The relatively heavy traffic in the exhibit halls during this year’s RAA Convention in Dallas might have obscured an underlying atmosphere of anxiety if not for some uncomfortable moments during RAA chairman Jeff Pinneo’s overview of the issues discussed at the confab’s President’s Council meeting.
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