American Airlines thought it had won the battle over regional pilot pay this summer, until underdog Mesa Airlines stepped up to the bargaining table. According to a Friday union announcement, Mesa Airlines pilots will soon go from being some of the worst-paid pilots to having the highest wages in the regional airline industry. Mesa operates approximately 457 flights a day and flies partner planes branded as American Eagle, United Express, and DHL. Starting September 15, the carrier will offer starting wagesof $100 an hour for entry-level first officers and $150 an hour for first-year captains. Under the new contract, Mesa pilots will receive a 118% and 172% pay increase respectively.
The Air Line Pilots Association has said that captains with 20 years of experience will be paid $215 an hour. This announcement comes as labor shortages continue to plague the aviation industry amid soaring travel demand, leading to a summer riddled with flight cancellations and delays. A shortage of trained pilots has been felt especially at the regional level, where smaller carriers like Mesa have struggled to retain talent this year as mainline operators with more competitive pay poach regional staff.
Mesa Airlines CEO Jonathan Ornstein said at a Senate Commerce aviation subcommittee hearing in May that the pilot shortage is the biggest threat to the industry since 9/11. He added that Mesa Airlines lost almost 5% of its pilot workforce in one month to major airlines and operators of larger jets.
In June, American Airlines raised pilot wages at two of its regional carriers, Envoy and Piedmont, to $90 an hour for entry-level first officers and $146 an hour for first-year captains. With strong competition in the regional industry, today’s Letter of Agreement offers the compensation Mesa needs to remain competitive and attract and retain experienced, qualified pilots, Capt. Chris Gill, Mesa ALPA Master Executive Council chair, said in a press release Friday.