CLEVELAND — The pilot shortage was a hot topic at the Regional Airline Association’s annual convention this year. Most regional airline executives said that they are seeing some minor impact, but how significant of the impact really depended upon the airline. For example, Cape Air is down approximately 25 pilots which has caused them to make three markets seasonal, but some regional airlines are seeing very minor impacts, if any.
Ryan Gumm, the CEO of Endeavor Air, explained at RAA that the airline is able to wait out the pilot shortage just fine compared to carriers.
Endeavor is wholly owned by Delta Air Lines, and it flies 630-650 flights a day with a strong fleet of 81 CRJ-900s and 40 CRJ-200 aircraft to 103 different cities. The airline aims to offer Delta’s customers a seamless transition between the mainline Delta experience and the Delta Connection experience.
Gumm explains that they are focused on bringing in the Delta Culture into the airline, and he tries to ensure that Endeavor’s operations mirror Delta’s. For example, almost all of Endeavor’s flight procedures mirror those that mainline Delta pilots use.
Since the flight operations are mirrored, among many different things, Endeavor is the number one pilot supplier to Delta Air Lines which is great for all parties. More than 500 Endeavor pilots will join Delta over the next three years.
The Pilot Shortage Impact
Thanks to strong pilot recruiting efforts and many incentives, there is a minimal impact at Endeavor Air with the pilot shortage. The airline aims to replace the pilots it has contracted with Delta each year to switch from the regional airline to Delta.
There are several incentives to become a pilot at Endeavor. There is a $20,000 annual retention package for pilots that includes $80,000 to be paid to pilots who for the regional through 2018 as well as payouts and security for a stable future. Endeavor also offers $2,000 to its employees as part of a pilot referral bonus.
This year, Endeavor is contractually obligated to supply Delta with at least 144 pilots. Next year, it will supply about 180 pilots, and in 2017, Endeavor Air is to supply Delta with 240 pilots. Every Endeavor Air pilot is guaranteed an interview with Delta, but Delta typically picks which of the pilots to move over to the mainline based on their seniority at Endeavor.
Endeavor plans to keep most of its CRJ-200s flying under Delta for several more years, despite an earlier plan to retire the remaining 40. Gumm says that “Delta sees value with this aircraft, and they’ll still be flying.”
Gumm explains that the airline “is looking to grow, but it is doing so cautiously and trying to ensure that smart decisions are made.” Already, Endeavor has gone through a massive transformation since it was Pinnacle and exited bankruptcy a few years ago.