The Regional Airline Industry In Decline

Comair_CRJ100ERSo I have been poking around the web reading what I can relating to the regional airline industry. I came across two articles in Aviation International News (Aviation International News.) that reenforce my argument why we, as a pilot group at Pinnacle Airlines, should vote yes on amending our current contract. In short, as I said in a previous post the economic realities demand it.

“…it became clear that at least one group of losers would emerge—namely the employees of the regional airlines who owe their jobs to the bloated fleets of 50-seat jets no one else seems to want anymore.”

There is no secret that Delta Airlines will phase out the 50 seat jet from their fleet.  Delta is replacing the smaller CRJ aircraft with the larger 76 seat CRJ900, to be flown by Delta’s Connection Partners, and 88 Boeing 717’s, to be flown by Delta’s own mainline pilots. By the numbers, Delta plans to park 343 CRJ200’s accounting for 17,000 seats and idling 3430 regional airlines pilots. With the addition of the announced 70 CRJ900’s plus the 88 Boeing 717 aircraft Delta will add back into the system 15,616 seats flown by a combination of 1580 regional and mainline pilots. To state the obvious, that is half the number of pilots and aircraft to fly basically the same number of people. I am assuming five crews per aircraft, it could be more, doubtful it will be less.

“A new pilot contract ratified by the pilots of United Airlines on December 15 will open more opportunities for “large” regional airplane flying by United Express affiliates but likely result in another large-scale grounding of 50-seat regional jets.”

Now that United Airlines has come to terms with their pilot group; it seems all but certain that they will also be removing 50 seat jets from their fleet. Like Delta United will be replacing the 50 seat jets with a combination of larger 76 seat regional jets and narrow body Embraer E190/195’s and Bombardier CSeries CS100 aircraft to be flown by mainline pilots. It is not hard to infer that the all but certain merger between American Airlines and US Airways will see another mass grounding of 50 seat regional jets.

While to some it may seem the regional airline industry is sinking and Pinnacle is rearranging the deck chairs on a doomed ship, it is in fact an industry in transition. Continued consolidation and mergers are inevitable how we vote will determine if the Pinnacle pilot group will be employed or competing against thousands of other out of work regional airline pilots.

As always I invite you to join the discussion and post your thoughts and comments below.

Pilot Deal Signals Big Changes at UAL, United Express | Aviation International News.

AIN Blog: Proposed Delta Scope Clause Could Break the Back of Small-RJ Fleets | Aviation International News.

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