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.
Mesa Air Group
The FAA awarded Bombardier’s 86-seat CRJ900 regional jet its U.S. type certificate on November 14, ostensibly paving the way for first delivery to Phoenix-based Mesa Air Group in April. Launch airline Mesa plans to fly the airplanes as America West Express under the auspices of Freedom Airlines, a new non-union subsidiary that launched CRJ700 services from Phoenix to Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., on October 26.
Big Sky Airlines will operate as a subsidiary of Mesaba Holdings by year-end if the Billings, Mont.-based Fairchild Metro III operator meets “certain labor conditions” set by its would-be parent company from Minneapolis. The proposed merger would create a new division within Mesaba Holdings, flying under an operating certificate and labor contracts separate from Mesaba Aviation.
Mesa Air Group’s designs for a new non-union subsidiary to fly its planned fleet of 64- and 84-seat jets continues to face stiff resistance from the powers that be within the Air Line Pilots Association, starting with none other than ALPA president Duane Woerth.
Orlando, Fla.-based low-fare carrier AirTran Airways took a page from the book of North America’s full-service airlines last month when it enlisted Air Wisconsin to replace some of its Boeing 717 capacity from Atlanta with 50-seat Bombardier CRJs.
A festering animosity between regional airline pilot groups and the Air Line Pilots Association showed no sign of subsiding last month, as nearly 300 Comair pilots asked to join a pending lawsuit against the union while pilots from US Airways subsidiary Allegheny Airlines picketed outside ALPA’s Washington headquarters.
Pilots from two different regional airlines lost their jobs for alcohol-related offenses over the span of two weeks, further adding to an undercurrent of public suspicion produced by the July 1 arrest of two America West pilots for the same reason. On July 28 airport officials removed an ASA first officer from a scheduled flight from Wilmington, N.C., to Atlanta after a TSA security screener claimed to smell alcohol on his breath.
US Airways informed Mesa Air Group that it will end its code-share relationship with Mesa subsidiary CCAir on November 4, and re-assign the last remaining routes flown by the Charlotte, N.C.-based regional to wholly owned US Airways subsidiary Piedmont Airlines. The decision will effectively close CCAir in its entirety, unless Mesa can negotiate a new “cost plus” contract to replace CCAir’s pro-rate agreement.
The decision by US Airways and United Airlines to test the scope-clause language in their pilot contracts after September 11 appeared fully vindicated last month, as both airlines’ Air Line Pilots Association chapters agreed to withdraw their force majeure grievances during negotiations aimed at resuscitating the ailing major carriers.
A union leader has accused American Eagle of declaring war on its pilots after the company announced it was transferring 14 regional jets to another airline.