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The Changing Dynamic of Regional Airlines

eklendi
 
It’s no secret that regional airlines are struggling to backfill outgoing pilots. As the baby-boomer generation of major airline pilots encroaches on the mandatory age-65 retirement point, experienced pilots from regional carriers are quickly being hired to fill their shoes. The result is a desperate need at the regional level to fill the void with a new generation of airline pilots – a void that is only getting wider. But can we expect the problem to spiral out of control, or is the airline industry evolving in a way that counteracts it?

The pipeline of new airline pilots appears to be drying up for many reasons – reasons ranging from the high cost of flight training versus the perceived career payoff, to the increased flight experience required as a result of new federal regulations. Either way, a shortage of pilots at regional airlines yields significant consequence on the major airlines they operate for. As the regionals reduce the amount of aircraft they can operate due to staffing shortfalls, their major airline counterparts ultimately lose valuable passenger feed. Throw irregular operational events such as snowstorms into the mix, and an already struggling operation is quickly crippled. Clearly change is needed before it’s too late.

Fortunately, the industry may be adapting to its struggles in a way that compliments the cyclical nature of the airline business. Present day industry trends that point to past practices appear to address the pilot shortage issue by default. If we briefly review a timeline of airline history, cycles of an abundance of airline brands followed by periods of industry consolidation become apparent. For example, in the 1980’s we saw People Express, New York Air, and Frontier Airlines all merge into Continental Airlines. In the same decade, PSA and Piedmont Airlines merged into US Air. Before we knew it, the legacy airline landscape was comprised of United, American, Delta, Northwest, US Airways, and Continental Airlines. Proving the cycle once again, recent merger activity has yielded only three remaining legacy U.S. airlines - American, United, and Delta.

The past 20 years has also seen a spawn of numerous regional airlines doing business as (DBA) the major airline counterpart whom they hold a contract with. By outsourcing their regional jet flying needs, major airlines have realized significant cost advantages by leveraging the competition between multiple regional carriers who underbid one another to win a proposed flying contract. To be competitively positioned, regional carriers maintain the lowest cost structure possible, most notably through extremely low employee compensation.

When the regional jet first surfaced in the late 1990’s, the economics of cheaper fuel allowed the skies to be littered with smaller, yet profitable 50-seat jet aircraft. The use of these jets allowed for increased frequency between city pairs with the same speed and similar range of larger aircraft that couldn’t support such a strategy in certain markets. Today however, higher fuel costs have drastically changed the viability of such a business model – a model that is now changing.

Coincidentally, in a time when these smaller jets aren’t economically viable (arguably they haven’t been for quite some time), the ability to find the pilots to fly them is also failing. The current industry response is a feverish replacement of outgoing 50-seaters with larger 76 -100 seat regional aircraft, however not on a one-for-one basis. What we’re seeing is an overall reduction in regional airline size as the result of a shrinking fleet. In fact, many of the larger regional aircraft are finding their way back onto major airline fleets as a result of pilot union/airline management negotiations. The result of this trend is a long-term view of overall smaller regional carriers that will ultimately require fewer pilots. This new model won’t develop overnight, rather over the course of the coming years, but one can see how the aforementioned pilot void may shrink.

How might these changes affect the paying passenger? I think the overall outlook for the customer is a positive one. For starters, as the retiring smaller aircraft are replaced with larger ones on a less than one-for-one basis, overall there will be less aircraft in the skies. This of course leads to alleviated airspace and airport congestion, which equals fewer delays. On the other hand, smaller aircraft allow for more frequent flights between city pairs - a plus for the flexibility needs of a business traveler. Larger regional aircraft may reduce that frequency but still allow for similar cumulative seating capacity, with the added bonus of a first class cabin. As an example, instead of five flights a day between cities on a 50-seater, perhaps three or four flights on a 76-seater will result. The overall passengers carried will be roughly the same – only on fewer available flights, but in more comfort.

The cycle of the ever-adapting airline industry tends to repair it’s own problems in many ways. There is certainly current-day proof that air service is being restricted due to the effect of a shrinking pilot supply, and it will likely get worse before it gets better. These are highly dynamic times in the airline business, and reverting back to what once was may indeed brighten the outlook.

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mtkowalski
Mark Kowalski 4
Good thread going on here all. Just to tackle a couple of points. The 1500 hour rule hurts the fresh pilots the greatest obviously. It means much more competition to find a very busy instructor job to obtain the required hours in the least amount of time. One could conceivably make more instructing than flying for the regionals. When the 1500 hours are achieved then on to the regionals they go. Fly for the regionals for years and make PEANUTS and hopefully get a shot at the mainline, no guarantees. The problem comes down to pay, period. The regionals are going to pay more, but in order to do so, they need to reduce and reorganize, and take the most profitable routes and go from there. Reducing will help alleviate some of their problem. Will some regionals go belly up? Absolutely. Then more pilots are out in pool, alleviating more of the problem until a balance is achieved. There is a pilot shortage but not to the severe degree that some think. As previous posters said, the industry will fix itself, it almost always has.

As to the topic of 91/135 flying. That world is not big enough nor busy enough to support the influx of pilots looking to build time. Unless you get on with a busy 135 operator which would require many hours to start with, building the required time takes years of flying. On demand is the key word here, no demand, no flying. Once you have the required hours, would you want to leave your much higher paying 91 gig, to go make 50-70% less to go fly for a regional? The decision is yours. There are some pilots whose only goal is to make it to a mainline and great for them. Reality is, life will dictate what you can do and what you want to do.

Agree with Rory, the price for a college flight degree is terrible. Many other options are out there. Most if not all operators are looking for a degree, period. Could be a business degree, biology, accounting et. Go to a "mom and pop" or other flight school and learn to fly. A commercial license from a college trained pilot looks exactly the same as a commercial license from another training outlet.

My advice for people who want to be a pilot, go for it. Do not listen to ALL the negatives and do not listen to ALL the positives. But, do get an education in something else besides flying. Have a back up plan. An aviation degree gets one thing in life, a business or other degree opens up much, much more to you in life. As you can tell, that is something I have though about on late nights in the seat.

Side note, I recently learned that a major store is so short on pharmacists, they offer 120K to start and car lease to fresh graduates. Now THAT is the way to solve your shortage! I'm waiting by my phone for Envoy to call...any minute now...
preacher1
preacher1 1
You make a good point about the 91/135. There are some good ones out there and young pilots will have to have a reality check, $ wise, when 1500 hours are attained. Lots of those 91/135 gigs are paying well above starting regional pay and flying big iron as well, and that is what it is all about, or should be. As we expanded last year and my time wound down, I hired 5 pilots. Of course they were all well experienced but even the youngest started at $60k, the more senior above $100k but they are all now typed on a 767, CRJ200 and a KA90gti.We are chartered 135 but it basically is a 91 as we strictly corporate fly but have done some outside under contract. Point is, that reality check will come along. It did for me in 73. A young man or woman should not be so single minded that they miss it.
honzanl
honza nl 2
there is a simple solution, and most logical in capitalism: pay more.
Shortage is suppose to raise price
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
Price paid will almost certainly go up.

But completely separately from the cost of labor, there may be a lag period while pilots with lower hours build up their flying time to 1500.

Ex-pat pilots flying overseas for a premium will often not be willing to fly for wages that regional airlines can afford to pay. Newer regional jets are increasing in seat capacity, but fleet averages are quite low compared to mainline fleets.

The reason for the existence of regional airlines flying affiliate feeder routes for mainline is to save money/ reduce costs. Mainline airlines could not easily provide such a cast network without the regionals. The mainline planes too large and the mainline pilots too expensive to profitably provide service to smaller markets. Even with the lower wages paid to regional pilots, most major airlines' short haul business is their least profitable. For many, these services lose money, and are subsidized by the long haul business, whose routes are partially filled by feeder traffic from these regional flights.

So yes, cost of pilots will go up. But service to some markets will be reduced or eliminated altogether, as the costs of providing those services increases.

Those airlines that are able to adapt to market realities the quickest (and/or that are least restricted by artificial agreements/ restrictions) will provide the best service at the best prices and be most profitable. Those airlines with the greatest restrictions will continue to bleed cash in short haul. They will continue to pay regional pilots poorly and will have trouble filling out their short haul flights with crews. Some may even go out of business, getting caught between better run and more profitable LCC's in short haul, and more agressive international airlines with better service and mire extensive networks in long haul.

So maybe not so simple as it seems.

The irony is that some labor agreements that make regional services less profitable on purpose may put the mainline airline at a competitive disadvantage. The irony is that these profit restrictions that are put in place supposedly to protect mainline pilot jobs may kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. That is, the mainline airline can be forced to close or be bankrupted by the financial pressure from these agreement. These can ironically result in loss of mainline pilot jobs and labor concessations, respectively.
devsfan
ken young 2
One potential issue that may arise is the elimination of small cities.
We may see places like Grand Rapids,MI, Hattiesburg, MS or Manchester, NH lose all scheduled service.
Maybe that is not such a bad thing. One, that would clear up a lot of clutter in the skies. Two, these federal subsidies we taxpayers are saddled with to keep those airports open for commercial traffic would go away.
If the carriers cannot find the drivers for the planes, something has got to go.
preacher1
preacher1 1
Agree to a point. If they have the gov't subsidy now, it won't go away and with the money, the airlines will stay after it. BTW, good to see you on, that crash over by Houston the other day said the plane was out of Austin and I thought of you. Did you know that guy?
jlalos707
You are on the right track, but the "pilot" issue is not the only thing causing the lose of service to smaller airports.

There are essentially only four major airlines left that control about 90% of the domestic passenger capacity--American, United, Delta and Southwest. All the other airlines added up account for 10%--that's right-Jetblue, Alaska, Spirit, etc. The four big airlines no longer have the incentive to hire regional airlines to serve smaller cities to capture traffic for their networks. The remaining four big airline serve the big cities and essentially have a 25% chance of getting a passenger to fly on them. In the old days, they could use a 19-seat operator to serve a small city where there might only be two carriers competing for the traffic thereby having a 50% chance of getting that passenger to enter their network. This was a major advantage because when there where 8 large airlines at the big airports there was only a 12.5% chance of capturing the traffic. The cost of operating a 19/30-seat to small markets was worth it.

But with limited competition and fuel now at $3.50 per gallon, the best bet for the majors is to fly big airplanes between big airports and have passengers show up on buses. Fares can be kept lower on aircraft with more seats. And, it takes two pilot to fly a B737-900--same as a 30-seat SAAB. If your city is served by a carrier with less then four 30/50-seat turboprops flight per day expect that airline to drop your city. At least with six 50-seat flights you can consolidate those trips onto 3 ERJ-175 flights and cover the morning, afternoon and evening. With only four trips, two departures on bigger aircraft make it difficult to cover the peak travel times during the day.

This is why I think high-end/time sensitive business travelers to/from small cities will wind up on fractional jets/turboprops. Price sensitive travelers will be on the bus to the hub.
preacher1
preacher1 1
Well, again, we'll have to see what comes out of it. There was a lot of talk a couple years ago as the EAS was really getting looked at. Problem with leaving the small towns behind, those pax will really feel a sticker shock, emplaning directly out of a hub or larger airport. The will at that point become O&D traffic and probably bear a higher cost than if they flew out of there small town. As an example, I booked a ticket for a lady a few years ago to visit her sister in Savannah GA. We though about just booking to ATL and have her sister driver up and get her. The FSM/ATL/SAV ticket was cheaper than FSM to ATL and majority cost was at ATL. Not sure if it's the same now but probably not far off
jlalos707
Connections sometimes are cheaper because there may be several hubs that can compete for the connect passenger. My guess is that FSM to ATL had only one carrier--DL and they were charging an arm and a leg for that. I need to take a closer look at FSM but my guess is that that airport is destined to loose service over time.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
I'd have to agree that the high cost of flying from FSM into a hub is all about FSM, not the hub. The route being a monopoly is what allows the carrier to charge so much.

If other carriers service the airport, the passenger can connect through their hub to ATL. But a direct non-stop flight is faster and worth a premium for many travelers (particularly business travelers).

It's market pricing. The airline charges that price because they can. One if two things are true.

Either they're making a huge profit on some of those FSM flights, and eventually some other carriers will add service.

Or the opposite. They must price the flights high because of the higher costs of flying into smaller markets. If that's the case, then the airline is losing money on those connecting flights. Not only does the airline have to price competitively, they have to pay for 2 flights: twice ascending to altitude, twice boarding the plane, twice putting bags on, twice taking bags off, twice taxiing to the gate and deplaning, twice turning around the plane.

The upside down pricing on that route into a hub is problematic. If it is not only an opportunistic pricing on a monopoly route, then it is a sign that the airport will lose service.

But the two are at different ends of the spectrum. One would be an indicator of more potential service. The other of less service.
preacher1
preacher1 1
It probably will. At one time, after DAL bought/merged NWA, DAL was going to drop it altogether. Then they dehubbed MEM and started taking all flights to ATL direct rather than to MEM. AA already cut several flights per day to DFW, from 8 back to 4 and making one an ATR rather than ERJ. IDK if they'll lose any more over there or not. With their loss of the Whirlpool plant and the ANG wing about cut in half, what with warthogs gong to drones, and the increased competition from XNA, it may be coming. There was already a move a couple years ago to move our flight ops to XNA then a CEO change came along and it didn't happen. I already retired once and am glad this temporary stint is about over. As far as the FSM and ATL, no other competing hub down Southeast but you had FSM/LIT/and XNA all flying ATL out here, not to mention TUL wasn't that far away.
jlalos707
Also FSM is about 100 miles for LIT, where there three major brands serve with much larger aircraft. The cost of producing a seat at LIT on a 140+ seat jet is cheaper than producing one out of FSM with seats. Moreover, as you reduce departure out of an airport, your average handling costs per departure tend to increase. Delta might be better off dropping its three RJ's into FSM and adding 1 additional B717 into LIT-ATL. This allows the carrier to improve facility utilization at LIT, produce a B717 seat at lower costs and improve its coverage out of LIT by adding a departure. Price sensitive travelers can drive to LIT. Business traveller can charter a KingAir and while that may be more expensive, they will save time over driving to LIT.

This is what I think will happen nationwide over the next five years. Also, watch airlines focus on the B737-900 and A321 instead of the smaller variants. Frankly, Boeing gave up on the B757 too soon. They would have "updated" that design just like they did the B737 since 1968.
preacher1
preacher1 1
Well, I'll agree with you on the 757. I flew one from 86 to 09. Had they still ben in production, we'd have probably ordered another one rather than our 767. FSM has been slowly dying since 8-10 years ago after XNA got up and running. That was roughly a man killing 50 mile drive for Northwest Arkansas to go somewhere as they all had to come down to FSM. Out of XNA now you can hit LAX, ORD, CLT and ATL as well as DFW. Mostly all RJ's right now but it is developing and with 8 grand on the runway, they can handle the big iron that will come. FSM is a contract tower and has been for years but when the FAA got on the closure kick last year, it was on the list to go, so I guess we'll see
jlalos707
Omni Air?
preacher1
preacher1 1
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
There's lots of space between a business jet and a bus to a distant hub.

People from a small airport without commercial airliner service can also take a ride to next larger town with airliner service.

But any airport that today has multiple daily services with decent load levels, that is dropped by the last major, would likely get picked up for service by one of the lower cost carriers. Maybe only one daily service or two.

But if there are ready and willing passengers in any market to consistently fill up planes, someone will be willing to send a plane. Firstly, the majors don't have incentive to give up services that they can profitably service. Even if the majors can't service an airport profitably, maybe some other carrier with a lower cost base, can do so.

If no carrier can make a buck, then that's when it's time to take the bus.
erj210
James McDonald 3
Lets face it. The only thing that is really going to help the majors and the regionals is if they redue the entire trainging structure. Even canning smaller jets for larger ones and cuting back on fleet size as well as mergers aren't going to help. Keep in mind, this pilot shortage was forcasted to happen back in the late 90's, but the airlines headed it off by forcing congress to raise the retirment age. Then we had 9/11 which kept it off by forcing all airlines to constrict. The the bankrupcies forced more mergers back in 2003. Simply put, the airlines can't hide beind mergers and fleet reductions anymore. They cut back too many more flights and they would esetually ether destroy their own buisness, or allow the next SWA room to expand.
What's going to happen is that airlines are going to start introducing newere training programs that they will convince the FAA will make more better trained pilots and thus can circumvent the 1500 hour rule. If the major airlines had fought that rule instead of just ignoring it, it wouldn't be here, and they only did that because they underestimated how it would effect them. Now its hurting them and when you have a billion dollar industry being hurt by regulation, don't think that regulation will be there for too long, not in this country. Think BP Oil spill!
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
"They cut back too many more flights and they would esetually ether destroy their own buisness, or allow the next SWA room to expand."

They cut back unprofitable services, and continue to run mostly full planes, where the fares passengers are willing to pay will cover the cost of providing the service.

If someone else can figure out how to profitably replace discarded services, that works out just fine for everyone.

With all the consolidation of higher cost structure airlines, room will be created for lower cost airlines to grow. As the consolidated airlines raise prices, they'll create a pricing umbrella that creates vibrant growth opportunities for these lower cost operations.

But the network carriers have to minimize those activities that greatly increase thier cost basis. They will cut services to smaller markets that don't bring enough benefit either from the fares that the passengers on these flights are willing to pay or from the additional revenue on flights connecting further into the network.

There is benefit in maintaining the largest possible network. But nit unprofitably. So expect the network carriers to raise prices, cut frequencies and or eliminate services on the least profitable smallest markets.

The smaller lower cost airlines will grow no matter what the large carriers do, due to the recent consolidation. The larger airlines would be wise to be mindful of their costs, and not exacerbate the cyst advantage of smaller carriers.

The large carriers aren't competing on price. They compete on the strength of their network. But there is a limit to the premium they'll be able to maintain over lower cost carriers. The larger the difference in pricing, the faster the smaller airlines will grow.

The mainlines will never fail or go bankrupt from having an optimally sized profitable operation. But they can go under or be dragged into bankruptcy by maintaining an unwieldy and unprofitable network at too high a cost premium.
preacher1
preacher1 0
Yeah, the rest provisions and additional training were probably needful but even that was looked upon from an economic standpoint rather than human need, hence the cargo exemption. Both Colgan pilots, from which this whole mess came, were well above 1500 hrs. Hate to sound cold but there were 50+ people dead, yet nothing that came out of that crash is causing any meaningful gain, but meaningful, unintended, hurt.Seems to me when you have a 1500 hr guy with an ATP, about all they have to do is type in a particular AC and they are ready. To me, right seat was always considered as a training position of some type, some beginning and some waiting on you to retire or die so they might make Captain.
mpradel
Marcus Pradel 1
Along with the 1500 rule there's now also a requirement of 1,000 hours Part 121 right seat time before upgrading to captain.. Probably a good thing, unless you're a 5,000+ hour Part 135 captain and F/O is truly going backwards.
nasdisco
Chris B 2
Being a Pilot for a major just seems to be a less and less attractive career. Equally, all you ever read is passenger dissatisfaction with flying.

It all seems to be a vicious circle of discontent.
preacher1
preacher1 5
It is still a nice career as far as money goes, but as with a Dr. or lawyer, it is expensive. Unlike those 2 professions, there is a hellacious difference in financing, and no clear way to pay off the debt that is incurred. There is one big underlying problem to the whole thing. There is no way, under current scales, that such a debt can be effectively serviced.
rfremaux
Look out; Medicine is becoming "not worth it", either.

Expect the quality and experience levels of physicians to drop precipitously, really soon, too !
rfremaux
A similar thing is happening in Medicine.

Expect a big drop in quality and experience levels of physicians & surgeons to fall far, and soon. It has become impossible to operate a profitable and comfortable private medical practice because of crippling regulations and fee limitations on doctors!
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
Like everywhere else, a large proportion of physicians are angling for the best payday. Increasingly this means a specialty or subspecialty. Particularly cash-basis elective practices are quite popular.

The government will have to subsidize the medical education of individuals willing to be primary care doctors, maybe in exchange for a few years serving the medical needs of underserved communities.

The same way airlines may have to help pilots get their piloting education, also in exchange for working for the sponsoring airlines for a few years.
preacher1
preacher1 1
I have said all along that the training sponsorship is where it will have to come from. With that will have to come some type modification and/or change in the 1500 hour rule. I'm outa here, NASCAR's coming on. LOL
egad
James Hodges 1
Take your time. Rain delay. Go Kyle Go!!!
akplanefreak
Aaron OBrien 1
I am 17 years old and working towards my pilots license. It is my dream to become a commercial pilot, and I'm not sure whether to be scared of this or excited. The new job openings would probably increase my chances of being hired. Does anybody have some advice for a kid like me who is looking to make my way into the airline industry? Money is not a huge factor because my grandparents have graciously agreed to pay for any college/training for my career. That's not to say that I would want to spend like crazy and that I wouldn't look at bargains.
preacher1
preacher1 2
I'd say go ahead and get your license and then look at the path to take. By the time this year is over with, I feel there are going to be so many changes and revisions in current law and regs that any advice given now would not be accurate for the long term. That's just a gut feeling but some things will have to change for this to be a viable industry.
egad
James Hodges 1
Please check the beginning pay scale. I understand It will take many years to get enough seniority and experience to make a decent living.
akplanefreak
Aaron OBrien 1
Yeah pay is not an issue either. Flying is my passion and I don't care what I get paid. I have made serious considerations financially. That includes the fact that I plan to not get married (definitely not until 35). Marriage is really expensive and so is a family. Not to mention the fact that moving and being away from home with this career would be tough on a family.
egad
James Hodges 3
I didn't plan to get married young either until I met my wonderful wife of 60+ years. I think you will do great at whatever you attempt.
preacher1
preacher1 1
Well, I still say get your license and then re-evaluate everything you have said here. Not trying to discourage you at all and you are correct on the expense and hardship, BUT, reality will set in at some point as far as the marriage and all; then decide.
akplanefreak
Aaron OBrien 1
Well there is no time to decide. As a senior in high school, the decision has already been made. What I am looking for is advice on which route to take as far as schooling and cost effective training. I am planning on taking a business degree in college (which has many benefits including other career options) and then earning hours towards my commercial license.
knopp06
Ryan Knopper 2
There is a B.S. Degree in Aviation Management that may be a good fit for you.
akplanefreak
Aaron OBrien 1
Thanks, I have thought about that degree. I agree it is probably a wise choice. preacher1 and James, thank you for the suggestion, but I am not interested in the USAF or any armed forces for that matter. Just a personal preference. Like I said, money is not an issue, so I don't need the Air Force to pay for my training.
egad
James Hodges 2
The USAF would probably love to have you. Flight school after the AF Academy. Don't know if it is still active but at one time they would even send people to Med School. Dr. Jim. Ret USAF.
knopp06
Ryan Knopper 1
Yes, Dr. Jim. The USAF will pay for med school along with a stipend and sign on bonus in exchange for a year-for-year payback with them after residency. Ryan-MS2
preacher1
preacher1 1
All things considered, Dr. Jim has good advice about the academy. Contact your Congressman about admission.
preacher1
preacher1 1
I will add, as James said here, I didn't plan on getting married either; I was in USAF and came home on 2 week Christmas leave, fell in love in December and we were physically together less than 30 days until getting married in July, nearly 44 years and 2 grown kids ago.
jjdenike
james denike 1
"How might these changes affect the paying passenger? I think the overall outlook for the customer is a positive one" Have to take offense at this one. The coming pilot shortage at the Regional level is almost here. A lot of furloughed Regional pilots (i.e. COMAIR) won't be coming back and regional recruitment is a farce. Why should anyone in their right mind spend upwards of $100K to get a CFI or other time-building job at minimum wage to then get promoted to a Regional F/O slot paying $22K a year or less. When the Regionals can no longer recruit cheap pilots, they will really go into draconian cost-cutting measures or go out of business. Lose the Regional inflow to the majors, and then the Majors will cry uncle and turn the entire US aviation system into a giant AMTRAK commercial.
preacher1
preacher1 1
Even with qualified from Comair out there, they won't work for peanuts
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
Don't forget the hordes from Envoy that will join their Comair brethren as Envoy contracts. I still can't see the value to the pilots to not let them vote on their own future.

The best former flyers of both Comair and Envoy will get picked off by the majors. The others will have some hard choices to make. But starting pay at any regional (no matter how sweetened it gets) will never match up to stepped up pay for a pilot with lots of seniority from Comair or Envoy that finds himself it herself without a job.

Some how getting to keep one's job (even at the same rates previously agreed in earlier agreements) at a regional airline with a reputation for highest pay in the category, sounds like it may be better than being forced to start over.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
It's what I call forced instability.

A good job at good pay is better than insisting on always increasing pay that get pushed past what the market is willing to pay. The consequences are almost always less desirable when the situation gets unstable from a financial and disruptive labor relations perspective.
preacher1
preacher1 1
One word, ALPA
donthemask
"the high cost of flight training versus the perceived career payoff"

This here ladies and gents is the crux of the issue. These jobs WILL BE OUTSOURCED to low quality foreigners, who can barely squeak by with minimal flight hours and training. Has anyone ever bounced down a clean runway under perfect weather conditions with Lion Air?
I have on too many occasions to recount.
Keep you lap belts buckled and your life insurance payments paid in full.
mtkowalski
Mark Kowalski 2
Lion Air is a whole different ball game and too bad you have to fly with them. Lion Air and others like them pick a kid out of school, have them sign a training contract for many years, have them "fast tracked", complete required licenses in minimal time, throw them in a sim to be typed, and ding, you have your pilot. Minimal time spent flying and honing the craft and they sit right seat for years without touching the airplane or maybe they let them on calm days. Sure they can recite the regulations word by word maybe, but that doesn't come in handy when they bounced you down the runway. I recently talked to a ferry crew for Lion Air as they stopped in Hawaii for a tech stop. The captain was in his mid 40s maybe and the other 3 crew members were no more than 25 tops. Made me think how such a young group was in charge of bringing a brand new 737 half across the world. Another example is Air India a national/international airline. A google search will come up with many pilots found fake. They walked in to an office with a fat envelope, resume, a forged logbook and they are hired. Here are the keys to our 747. Corruption still breeds unfortunately in some parts of the world. Sure our pilots are fast tracked in some ways but no where near the level that they do it. To say pilots will be outsourced to low qualifying foreigners is completely absurd.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 0
No need to import foreigners to get trained to be pilots, when there's an ample pool of ready and willing qualified individuals who'd be willing to get trained to be pilots, without any need to turn to foreigners to fill this training slots.
devsfan
ken young 1
Not when the starting salary is under $20k.
American people are not about to spend tens of thousands of dollars( most likely borrowed) for flight training only to see most of their first 5 years of pay go to paying off loans. It's just not worth it.
Have a look at the medical profession. We have seen a gigantic influx of foreign born and educated doctors because the costs to go through ten years of schooling are very high here.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
Your assumptions aren't necessarily correct. Most with any knowledge of the industry will agree that if the 1500 hour rule remains intact, starting pay for regional pilots will go up.

A good chunk of foreign pilots get sent to the US for pilot instruction. Their airlines pay the bill and employ them upon completion of training program.

If US airlines are going to pay to train pilot candidates, they won't need to go overseas to find willing candidates. There are plenty of ready, willing and capable individuals in the US that are willing to undergo pilot training, and then work a gig at a US airline afterward.

US airlines will find it difficult to justify the issuance of study/work visas for pilot swathed for the US industry when there are ample Americans willing to do the same training/work.

Foreign airlines have been dealing with fast growth and pilot shortages for years. There aren't an magic supplies of pilots outside the US.

What the US airlines can import are ideas about finding and training pilots when there aren't enough of them around, trained, ready and willing to start flying for their airlines. Many of the foreign airlines already use US pilot training programs. So at least that part will largely stay the same. Just with American pilots.

The current pilot shortage is due to a perfect storm of several factors all hitting at once. Some combination of delays, adjustments, modifications to some of the new requirements, plus time for the marketplace to resolve the matter will take care of the problem.

If the rest rules remain intact, more pilots will be necessary. If the 1500 hour rule remains in effect for all captains and first officers of all mainline and regional airlines, then starting pay goes up for the lowest of these - regional FOs, which until now were paid less but often started with quite a bit less than 1500.

A staggered hours requirement would make more sense based on position and number of passengers and aircraft type.

But don't underestimate the industry's ability to find or train good pilots - good American pilots.

Pilots that won't be able to build their hours on regionals will turn elsewhere, eg. Part 135 flights with 9 or fewer passengers. When they get enough hours, they'll move up to regional airlines at a starting pay that will be commensurate with their higher experience as now required. The regionals may struggle to find new pilots while the current batch is building their hours. But the current batch and every batch thereafter will find the necessary paths to get to their commercial piloting job.

Also, as a result some regional flying will be reduced. Some of the least profitable routes and least profitable planes will be taken out of service. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

Some flying will be moved up to the mainline fleets. But all routes/markets cony be profitably serviced with mainline pilots or planes. They're either too big or too expensive.

Mainlines and the CBA will have to give regionals freedom to increase the size of some regional planes in order to allow them to fly profitably. This way they can continue to feed traffic to the mainline airlines, and provide job security for mainline pilots.

As long as the airlines maintain a ratio of mainline to regional flying, so that mainline flying isn't reduced while regional flying is increased, profitable growth in regional flying that corresponds to similar growth on the mainline can't be seen as anything other than a plus for all involved.
doh
Brian De Jong 1
Perceived career payoff?? It's a fact that there is no payoff for the vast majority of pilots. Get a real career and buy an airplane if you want to fly.
egad
James Hodges 1
Excellent advice. I wanted to fly all 3 of my little "toys" on the same day for the first time ever on my 81st birthday but the forecast was for bad wx so I dooded it 2 days early. I will consult with Billy Graham for my 101st.celebration to ensure fly able wx.
jlalos707
I also see aircraft gauge increasing at the major carriers. New Boeing and Airbus narrowbody orders are concentrated at the -900/A321 level and there is speculation at a clean sheet narrow body is likely to offer B757-capacity. Don't expect many orders for -800 size aircraft going forward.

Airlines may also have to resort to training models used by many foreign airline whereby captive flight school identify candidates and train them literally from the ground-up at the carrier's expense. Then, it will be up to that carrier to retain their investment in the pilot.

Finally, there is the possibility that the "shortage" is short-lived. The new 1500-hour limit forces current low time pilots to stay with their current Part 135 employer until they gain the minimum hours. After that, there should be a ready supply with the "shortage" being in felt in that area. My guess is that the current situation is working in those operators' favor.
preacher1
preacher1 2
That is all kinda well & good but when they attain that 1500hrs. the major's will snap them up, and that still doesn't address the problem of the regional's having a shortage unless they significantly increase their plane size/pay scale. You have hit upon something on the training as far as the captive flight schools and Airlines footing the bill. Major trucking companies have done that for years, having a guaranteed work time at the end of training, with a $ figure predetermined if the trainee leaves early, but if the majors set up such as that, the regionals will still be eating dust and short of pilots. Are we gonna go back to home owned regionals and start the newbies in on regional, eventually building seniority and working into the big iron? And BTW, all 135's ain't bad nor are the 90's. Some are plum jobs and a man would be foolish to leave and become a line dog. I didn't.
jlalos707
I agree that some of the Part 135 and 91 works is good work. The only reason the regionals exist is because the industry historically had a labor cost advantage especially when the industry was largely a 30-seat turboprop and 50-seat RJ operation. That could disappear. There is no reason why under the right pays scale that a 90/100 seat "regional" (we used to call it the BAC-111 or the DC-9) could not be flown by the major.

I think that with essentially 4 major carriers and fuel at $3+++ /gallon service in increasingly concentrate in the top 50 cities/airports served by larger aircraft. Price-sensitive travelers to/from small cities will bus it to the major airports. Business travelers will find themselves on PC-12s and King Airs.
preacher1
preacher1 1
That is probably where it will wind up at. before the term REGIONAL was really ever coined, those BAC-111's and DC-9's were plying the lighter routes and then in the 90's the Fokkers jumped in there. It will probably all be rediscovered one of these days, but then there is still that pesky fuel price.
bishops90
Brian Bishop 1
I think you're a little off in not expecting many -800 size orders. Southwest already ordered a bunch and will likely order many many more as their -700's age. However, the upgrade in size provides further support for the basic premise.
planefuner
Rory Crews 1
As a retired AF pilot, it has been very interesting flying 135 charter. First, it is a crime what "premier" flight schools/colleges charge these kids for flight training and an aviation degree. They are sold a bill of goods to take on$100,000 of student debt because "it will give a leg up on the competition." Horse hockey. Time, qualifications, experience, and apptitude are what matter. It has been surprising to find out just how many immigrants, some even with just a green card waiting to gain citizenship, are here in the US flying commercially or part 91K....90% that I have spoken with got their licenses at mom and pop flight schools in south Florida and other locations for a fraction of a "premier" school. I know one guy who is in the process of having his flight school in Central America approved as a part 141 school by the FAA. He is trying to cash in by supplying a steady stream of young pilots to the US from South America. It is going to be interesting to see how the pool of commercial/airline pilots changed in the coming years.
PhotoFinish
PhotoFinish 1
Thanks for sharing. Are these the same pilots that have been moving up to part 121 airlines (regionals, majors)?

Major and regional US airlines have often been able to have higher standards than bare minimum requirements in the pipits they hire to sit at the pointy end of their planes.

It would be ironic if the new hours requirement make the airlines (esp. regionals) have to compromise on their standards and characteristics in order to fill seats up front with pilots with enough hours.
Neil49
Neil49 -2
The scariest problem with the regionals is the relatively young age and low experience of the pilots, in both left and right seats. It always gives me pause when I see crew members who look as if they just finished high school, or at best, college, who are in command of these jets.

The kicker for me was when I saw a pilot walking towards his flight, trailing a flight bag emblazoned with two stickers, one of which was for his college, the other shouting, "TELL YOUR MOM TO STOP TEXTING ME:.

How professional.

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