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Wednesday, October 5, 2022
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American Airlines Adds New Regional Carrier

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American Airlines Airplanes | Image by Shutterstock

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American Airlines is adding a new regional carrier to its portfolio to help bolster its feeder ranks amid an industry-wide pilot shortage.

American announced it would contract Air Wisconsin once the regional carrier’s current contract with United Airlines expires in March 2023. This will give Fort-Worth-based American access to Air Wisconsin’s operating fleet of 60 Bombardier CRJ200 jets.

“You’ve likely seen headlines in recent months about a regional pilot shortage affecting the U.S. airline industry,” stated Derek Kerr, chief financial officer at American Airlines. “American has been — and will continue to be — aggressive in leading the industry in tackling this challenge, but it will take some time before the issue is resolved.”

Regional pilots have become increasingly sought out with a surge in post-pandemic air travel. Especially as carriers nationwide struggle to find enough certified pilots to fly commercial jets.

Earlier this year, the lack of pilots led American Airlines to cut routes for multiple destinations and ground roughly 100 regional aircraft.

“We have regional aircraft that aren’t in the air, and, while we may not have the pilots, we’ve got the resources to fly those aircraft,” said Robert Isom, American Airlines CEO.

American Airlines could potentially receive some pilot relief early next year.

ExpressJet, an Atlanta-based regional airline and former carrier for United, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on August 23, announcing it would begin the liquidation process.

ExpressJet’s most valuable assets could be its 1,300 pilots and 145 Embraer aircraft, according to The Dallas Morning News.

In response to the bankruptcy filing, American-owned regional carrier Piedmont Airlines offered to scoop up ExpressJet pilots with matching salaries and possibly thousands more in hiring and retention bonuses.

Pilots for ExpressJet are currently on furlough as the carrier goes through bankruptcy proceedings. Both regional carriers operate Embraer 145 jets, making a potential employee crossover less complicated.

“Piedmont added distressed carrier language to its pilot contract last year, anticipating the fragility of some regional carriers after the pandemic,” said Matt Kernan, Piedmont’s operations director.

Kernan continued, “No one wants to see an airline fail, ever. We know that ExpressJet pilots are well-trained aviators who know the Embraer 145, and we are very pleased to make this transition as easy as possible for them.”

Jenna Arnold, a spokesperson for Piedmont Airlines, stated American’s other regional carriers use similar contract language. These types of contracts allow airlines to carry over longevity for impacted pilots and include higher pay, better benefits, and more vacation time than starting pilots, said Arnold.

Pilots with significant flight hours are most in-demand. According to Arnold, mainline airlines like American are on a hiring spree when it comes to experienced regional pilots.

She added that this has left new hires out of flight school without experienced captains to help them at smaller carriers.

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