What could be worse? American apparently believes it would be even tougher to continue to operate under the pilot contract approved by prior management during its bankruptcy.Must Read: Delta CEO, Backing Obama, Declares 'We Are a Nation of Immigrants'
So today, Envoy is in "a unique situation where an airline is coming apart," said aviation consultant Bob Mann. Some observers believe the airline cannot survive but that Envoy can continue to operate as a ground handling company.
Mann said that possibility should be taken seriously. "I think Envoy will be smaller for a period and then there will be a determination whether that is cost-effective," he said.
Envoy spokeswoman Martha Thomas said: "American has no plans to shut Envoy down. Envoy continues to provide reliable service, its employees serve American's customers well and the company remains an important part of American Airlines Group."
But she noted that 8,000 of Envoy's 14,000 employees work to provide ground handling to more than a dozen airlines including American.
Envoy today has about 2,400 pilots, down from about 3,000 at the end of 2012 and 2,700 at the end of 2013.
Some pilots are leaving to fly for mainline carriers including Alaska (ALK) , Frontier, JetBlue (JBLU) and Spirit (SAVE) , said James Magee, spokesman for the Envoy pilots.
Others, Magee said, are leaving for air taxi companies flying twin-engine turboprops, where they can work as captains, because the major carriers prefer to hire pilots with experience as captains. "They want to see that you have the decision-making ability of a captain," he said.
Magee said Envoy is able to hire new pilots, but that is a challenge because "when you announce that you are shrinking, it's harder to hire new pilots. They are looking for someplace that has rapid growth."
Envoy said last week that it will transfer 50 Embraer 145s from its fleet to three other regional carriers.
"This transfer is solely driven by forecasts showing an insufficient number of pilots at Envoy in 2015 to operate our planned schedule," said Kenji Hashimoto, American senior vice president of regional carriers, in a letter to pilots.
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