Five years as an association president might seem like a modest stint to some, but Debby McElroy has seen enough in her tenure at the RAA to last a lifetime.
Embraer and Bombardier each collected significant orders late last month for their respective regional jets, the Brazilian manufacturer from Saudi Arabian Airlines for 15 dual-class Embraer 170s and the Canadian airframe maker from Northwest Airlines for 15 fifty-seat CRJ200s. Embraer’s sale marked its first from the Middle East, a potentially lucrative market where regional networks remain largely undeveloped.
Twilight has fallen unceremoniously on the heyday of the 50-seat regional jet, and Bombardier’s October 28 announcement that it would suspend production of the CRJ200 only underscored that fact. Of course, the recent bankruptcies of Northwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Independence Air haven’t helped, but signs of a meltdown came long before any CRJ operators stopped deliveries or started grounding airplanes.
Mesaba Aviation won a motion it filed last month against its fellow Chapter 11 petitioner and mainline partner Northwest Airlines for withholding more service contract payments. Mesaba, which subleases its Avro RJs and part of its Saab 340 fleet from Northwest, claimed that Northwest withheld $5.2 million in retaliation for the regional airline’s suspension of lease payments–a practice allowed under U.S.
The giant sucking sound generated by the bankruptcies of two of the largest airlines in the U.S. echoed last month through the financial community and across the air transport industry, including the regional airline sector. Among Delta’s various partners, wholly owned Comair stands to feel the most profound repercussions because it now too operates under Chapter 11 protection.
Mesaba Airlines became the latest casualty of Northwest Airlines’ financial meltdown last month, when it followed its sole mainline code-share partner into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The move followed weeks of speculation about the effects of Northwest’s failure to pay its Airlink partners millions of dollars in flying fees and subsequent plans to remove as much as half of the seating capacity from Mesaba’s fleet.
Northwest Airlines has presented its pilot union leaders with a plan to start a new subsidiary specifically to replace the airline’s aged Douglas DC-9s with 70- to 100-seat regional jets. Employee compensation would fall to levels common among regional airlines flying 50- and 70-seat RJs, meaning Northwest’s DC-9 pilots would earn about half what they earn now and lose pension and 401(k) benefits.
SkyWest Airlines parted ways with Continental Airlines earlier this year in large part because the Houston-based major airline wanted its regional partner to fly 50-seat Saab 2000s, SkyWest CEO Jerry Atkin told AIN during last month’s RAA convention in Cincinnati.
Bombardier announced a 100,000-sq-ft expansion plan at its factory-owned service center at Love Field in Dallas. Construction will begin in the fall and is expected to take one year.
A federal district court judge struck a severe blow to the management of Mesaba Airlines last month when he overturned an earlier bankruptcy court ruling that gave the company permission to reject its labor contracts with its pilots, mechanics and flight attendants. Judge Michael Davis of the U.S.