Revolution in the Skies: SkyWest’s 25% Stake In Contour Airlines Ignites Industry Turmoil | Airlines

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Revolution in the Skies: SkyWest’s 25% Stake In Contour Airlines Ignites Industry Turmoil

SkyWest has been trying to start a new airline, SkyWest Charter, under part 135 rules. This would allow them to operate aircraft with up to 30 seats using pilots that have fewer than 1,500 hours of experience, and to use senior pilots from major airlines recently forced out by mandatory age 65 retirement.

This new carrier would operate subsidized Essential Air Service routes.

  • It’s one thing to pay a pilot $200,000, spread out across 100 or more passengers.
  • It’s cost-prohibitive to pay that spread out across 8 or 15 passengers.
  • As major airlines have hired pilots away from regional carriers, at higher wages, to address their own shortages the regionals have struggled.
  • And less air service means more people driving longer distances (whether to their destination or to a larger airport). Driving is less safe than flying.

The Air Line Pilots Association led a charge against this, seeing it as an end-run around hard fought job protections. ALPA got Congress to impose six times the hours required in Europe for U.S. major airlines, to impose significant costs and time to become a pilot. This has helped to create a shortage of pilots and drive up wages.

To oppose SkyWest Charter, however, they also had to oppose premium Dallas-based carrier JSX because it benefited from those same rules. And once a regulatory assault on JSX was in play, Dallas-based American Airlines and Southwest Airlines joined in the attack. American…

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