European regional airlines strengthened their ties with their major airline counterparts from across the Atlantic last month, when Italy’s Air Dolomiti signed a code-share contract with United Airlines, and the UK’s Flybe entered a similar agreement with Continental Airlines.
The number of pilots hired from January through May by the six major fractional operators (559 pilots) is outpacing hiring by the major airlines (302) and regional jet operators (402), according to statistics compiled by AIR Inc. of Atlanta. Only hiring by national airlines (649) surpassed fractionals (total hired in all categories was 2,509). AIR also reported that 7,257 of 94,571 active airline pilots are on furlough in the U.S.
As companies merge, expand, downsize, change top executives or declare bankruptcy, their flight departments are often significantly affected. In the past several weeks, four major companies with flight departments have filed for protection under Chapter 11. More than 20 corporate jets were operated by these four companies, and none is currently more visible than Enron.
Statistics compiled by Aviation Information Resources (AIR) of Atlanta show a decrease in pilots hired by fractional providers from a peak of 1,363 in 2000 to 1,038 in 2001 to 997 last year, a drop in hiring of 27 percent over the three-year period. But the fractionals didn’t fare as poorly as other airline segments tracked by AIR. For example, the major airlines hired 4,779 pilots in 2000, 3,318 in 2001 and only 549 last year.
Continental Airlines and Brazil’s Embraer last month agreed to defer deliveries on 60 fifty-seat ERJ-145XRs jets by as much as two years, sending stock prices of both companies sharply downward. According to the new schedule, Embraer will deliver to ExpressJet 36 aircraft instead of 48 in 2003 and 21 aircraft instead of 36 in 2004.
The sagging market valuations of airlines across the U.S. since September 11 have prompted Continental Airlines to reconsider plans to spin off its wholly owned regional subsidiary into an independent entity. As a result, the airline has postponed its planned initial public stock offering of ExpressJet from parent company Continental Airlines until market conditions warrant renewed consideration of such a move.
At a ceremony last month marking the delivery of a newly overhauled Dash 8 to Honolulu-based Island Air, ExelTech announced that it secured C$7 million in new contracts this year from five regional airlines from as far afield as French Guyana to perform heavy maintenance at its facilities in Montreal.
In the wake of a first quarter that saw his airline’s operating margins cut by more than half from a year earlier, ExpressJet CEO Jim Ream didn’t see much point last month in revealing traffic figures for the company’s new branded operation. But in case anyone held out hope that things went better than expected, Ream didn’t just let the omission speak for itself. “The markets are thin,” he said.
The Regional Airline Association opens the next chapter in its 32-year history this year as new association president Roger Cohen presides over his first RAA convention in Memphis. But in the five months since the group bid farewell to Debby McElroy, Cohen hasn’t enjoyed much time to acclimate to his new environs, having dived head-first into one of the most contentious debates over FAA funding the industry has ever had to face.
The runway at Midway Island remains open for emergency landings, thanks to $3.2 million from the DOT. The money will be used to upgrade navigational aids and maintain the runway until at least September 30, the end of the current fiscal year. The airfield was on the verge of closing January 6 when a Continental Airlines 777 with nearly 300 people aboard made an emergency landing at the former U.S.