CEO cites pilot shortage as one of the airline’s problems.
The 350 pilots and other employees of St. Louis-based Trans States Airlines have been on the edge of their seats following announcements last year, such as the cancellation of the company’s order for 50 Mitsubishi regional jets because of scope-clause concerns, or that sister company Compass Airlines last year lost a major contract for flying with Delta Airlines. However, they were probably not prepared for Monday’s employee letter from Trans States Holding CEO Rick Leach. In that document, from February 24, obtained by Flying, Leach announced that Trans States Airlines flying “…will be concluded by the end of 2020.” Trans States Holding also operates Compass and GoJet Airlines.
Leach cited, among other concerns, the regional segment’s razor-thin profit margins and, specifically, Trans States Airlines inability to attract enough pilots to staff its aircraft—in particular, enough captains to balance out the current first officer ranks. Earlier in February, the company cancelled a new-hire first officer class that was already in progress as well as delaying others. The pilot shortage has prevented Trans States from utilizing its Embraer 145 regional jet fleet as much as it needs to in order to remain profitable. ExpressJet Airlines is expected to absorb the EMB-145 fleet from Trans States, although it is unclear how that carrier will hire enough pilots to staff the new aircraft. In any case, the future for the pilot
population at Trans States will change day by day.
A former Compass Airlines pilot said he doubted many Trans States pilots would end up at Compass, although “there are a lot of rumors but nothing specific.” In an email, the pilot said, “When Compass lost the Delta contract, they lost 3/4 of their flying, so they are already over staffed and losing more flying as the year goes on. I don’t see how they can bring anyone on.”
Louis Smith, a retired DC-10 captain and president of Future and Active Pilot Advisors (FAPA) told Flying, “I think it will be five days or more before the two ALPA groups reach an agreement. Trans States’ pilots may need incentives to cooperate with their management to provide an orderly transition of aircraft and flying over to ExpressJet. The incentives [to keep Trans States pilots] could be retention bonuses in combination with a structured process for pilots to move with the aircraft. It’s uncertain whether the Trans States pilots would receive any ‘labor equity’ as part of the transition.”
The Air Line Pilots Association’s Master Executive Council for Trans States said yesterday in an email to Flying that, “We are disappointed in the news that Trans States will be winding down its operation by the end of 2020. Since learning about the ceasing of operations, ALPA has been working on creating ways to help mitigate the direct impact this will have on pilots and will be meeting with management soon to discuss next steps. In addition, ALPA pilots at ExpressJet have been working on plans that will provide protections to Trans States pilot who choose to transition.”