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Mesa Airlines' pilots will now be the best-paid in the regional airline industry

Aug. 26, 2022
3 min read
Mesa Airlines Bombardier CRJ-900ER aircraft seen at Phoenix
Mesa Airlines' pilots will now be the best-paid in the regional airline industry
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The pilots at Mesa Airlines are about to be the best-paid in the regional airline industry.

The Phoenix-based regional airline, which operates the Canadair Regional Jet 900 for American Airlines and the Embraer 175 for United Airlines, will pay its first officers a starting rate of $100 per flight hour and its captains a starting rate of $150 per hour, the union representing its pilots, the Air Line Pilots Association, announced on Friday.

It's the first regional airline to break the $100 per hour starting pay mark for first officers. In June, American Airlines sent shockwaves through the industry when agreements were reached with unions at its three wholly-owned regional airlines to start first officer pay at $90 per flight hour.

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During the airline's third-quarter earnings call earlier this month, Mesa's longtime CEO, Jonathan Ornstein, said that his airline was losing pilots to American's regional airlines.

Prior to this agreement, Mesa's pilots were among the lowest paid in the regional industry. It's a 118% pay hike for first-year first officers and a 172% hike for captains.

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“With strong competition in the regional industry, today’s LOA offers the compensation Mesa needs to remain competitive and attract and retain experienced, qualified pilots,” Capt. Chris Gill, the chair of Mesa's pilot union, said in a statement, referring to the letter of agreement signed between the union and the airline's management. “We’re happy to see management and our partners recognize the value of Mesa pilots.”

The new rates take effect on Sept. 15. The deal is for two years, and the union is currently negotiating other aspects of its contract with Mesa.

More: Pilots at American Airlines’ regional airlines will see a massive pay increase

The move by Mesa comes as a pilot shortage is acutely impacting the regional airline industry and driving airlines to increase pay in order to compete for a smaller pool of pilots. Things have gotten particularly bleak for regional airlines during the COVID-19 pandemic, as pilots at larger mainline carriers took buyouts and early retirement packages, leaving a large void of pilots for the airlines to fill. Regional airlines haven't been able to compete with the majors as easily in recruiting talent.

"There's no fundamental flaw to this business beyond this pilot shortage," Ornstein said on the call.

Earlier this week, pilots at another United Express carrier, CommutAir, received a pay bump as well, though it now falls far below the new rates at Mesa.

TPG reached out to Mesa for comment and will update this story when we hear back.

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