The events of September 11 and the subsequent economic fallout have tested the competitive mettle of airlines worldwide. Thankfully for those that escaped the fate suffered by the now bankrupt Swissair and Sabena, the hundreds of smaller carriers that comprise the often overlooked regional airline sector have supplied a source of relative strength.
American Airlines has entered negotiations to sell its Executive Airlines subsidiary to St. John’s, Antigua-based Dash 8 operator Caribbean Star. Executive Airlines, a division of American Eagle based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, became the subject of divestiture speculation when American failed to secure relief from a clause in its pilot contract that requires it to freeze its regional affiliates’ ASMs in the event of mainline furloughs.
Wholly owned US Airways subsidiary PSA Airlines expects to begin its transition to an all-regional-jet fleet with the launch of service next month using new 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200s. The Canadian-built jets will replace 32-seat Fairchild Dornier 328 turboprops on flights linking PSA’s Dayton, Ohio base with Ronald Reagan Washington National and New York La Guardia Airports.
Almost immediately after US Airways’ emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late March, company CEO David Siegel told reporters that the company would place an order for 100 regional jets for MidAtlantic Airways, its new Pittsburgh-based regional unit slated to begin service during this year’s fourth quarter.
The so-called “Jets for Jobs” program agreed upon by US Airways as part of the labor contract ratified by its ALPA-represented pilots over the summer has produced neither jobs nor jets for anyone so far.
A steady rise in traffic and load factors might seem like good news for the airline delegates gathered at the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) general assembly in Vienna from September 29 to October 1. But as airlines turn to “fierce cost cutting” to attract passengers, reality muted any calls for celebration during the three-day event.
Bankrupt Mesaba Airlines has asked a bankruptcy court judge to void contracts with its three labor unions after employees refused to agree to a 19.4-percent cut in payroll costs. In response, the airline’s pilots, flight attendants and mechanics staged protests at Minneapolis-St.
The U.S. airline industry last month felt the opening tremors of what could become the biggest shakeup in the business since the introduction of the regional jet. On August 15, US Airways announced a plan to fly 50- to 69-seat RJs within its mainline system, using mainline flight crews as part of a far-reaching reorganization effort.
Bombardier landed the first regional jet sale to a U.S. carrier this year when Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines subsidiary Atlantic Southeast Airlines converted options to firm orders on three 50-seat CRJ200s last month. The order, valued at some $68.7 million, brings to 237 the number of 50-seat CRJs ordered by ASA and fellow Delta subsidiary Comair, of which 191 have been delivered and another 46 remain on backlog.
As the air transport industry slowly recovers from a sagging global economy and persistent geopolitical unrest, regional airlines have recast themselves as agents
for change in a business often criticized for its inflexibility and lack of fiscal discipline.