Northwest Airlines pilots last month voted to allow Northwest Airlink partner Pinnacle Airlines to add more 50-seat regional jets to its fleet and open talks over a new pay scale for 70-seat regional jets at the mainline. Part of a concessionary contract that calls for a 15-percent pay cut among pilots and management, the new deal will allow Pinnacle to convert its remaining orders and options on 44-seat Bombardier CRJs to 50-seat CRJ200s.
United Airlines has asked for requests for proposal (RFP) from 10 regional airlines to fly up to 70 regional jets on routes now controlled by Appleton, Wis.-based Air Wisconsin. The 10 airlines include all of United’s existing partners, as well as Independence Air–the former United Express carrier turned low-fare competitor to UAL at Washington Dulles and Chicago O’Hare Airports.
The recent run of big orders for new turboprops has no doubt lifted the spirits of the two remaining builders of prop-driven airliners.
Mesaba Airlines and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) reached a tentative agreement on a new contract last month for the airline’s 844 pilots, averting a threatened strike by a matter of hours. ALPA and Mesaba had engaged in negotiations since June 2001 to no avail, prompting the National Mediation Board to call an impasse and a 30-day “cooling off period,” after which the pilots could have legally walked off the job.
It had been a somewhat quiet year since the RAA staged its annual convention in St. Louis last May. Seemingly immune to the ills that have crippled their mainline counterparts for the past four years, the regional airlines finished last year with close to 30-percent traffic gains and average yields of 10 percent, leaving many wondering how long the major airlines would allow such an imbalance to continue.
Minneapolis-based Mesaba Aviation has until January 10 to negotiate a new collective-bargaining agreement with its pilots or face the prospect of a strike. Last month the airline received a letter from the National Mediation Board indicating the start of a 30-day “cooling-off period” in its contract negotiations with the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).
Northwest Airlines will have to add a third regional partner if it wants more 50-seat jets for its Northwest Airlink division, according to an agreement with its pilots to limit the number of regional jets it leases to Pinnacle and Mesaba Airlines.
Pinnacle Airlines bought Manassas, Va.-based Colgan Air for $20 million last month. The deal gives Memphis-based Pinnacle, which has flown exclusively for Northwest Airlines during its entire existence, immediate access to code-share revenue from Colgan partners Continental Airlines, United Airlines and US Airways.
Shareholders of Mesaba Airlines parent MAIR Holdings last month accused Northwest Airlines of a conspiracy to suppress the value of its regional affiliate in preparation for a planned buyout.
A new code-share contract with Northwest Airlines (NWA) will allow Memphis-based Pinnacle Airlines to keep its fleet of 124 Bombardier CRJs, potentially fly 76-seat jets and enter code-share deals with other major airlines. Under the 10-year deal, Northwest will also assign Pinnacle another 17 CRJ200s and/or CRJ440s by the end of the year.