Real Answers from Real Pilots

Do pilots ever stay with their regional? Besides money is there more incentive to leave?

Amazing informative site,

I was wondering if pilots ever remain with their regionals all the way through.
QOL has been a bigger factor for me deciding my path than money, regionals seem to be offering pretty solid pay although my jaw dropped looking at major paychecks. So,

  • Is there any real dangers staying with a regional? I used to look at Silver Airways a lot but it seems to look very looked down upon and sometimes I wonder if it can stay open. Envoy also seems like an interesting option for trying to be in Florida.

  • Is this a bad mindset to have? One thing that Ive always been told by pilots I ask is that living in domicile and having seniority, is a completely different job than commuting and being tossed around bases.

Thank you for any insight.

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Great question Alex,

The answer is yes, there are pilots who stay at their Regionals for life. The 2 main reasons people move on to the Majors is a) Pay (as you mentioned) and b) the desire to fly a BIG plane around the world. For me it was the latter. To be honest I was very happy at my Regional. I was senior, had a great schedule and made pretty good money (over $100k). If they could’ve given me a guarantee that I’d keep my Capt seat, at my same base for the rest of my career I would’ve strongly considered staying.

As I said I did have the desire to fly a big plane to some exotic locales but more important it was the volatility that pushed me out. You see Regionals don’t sell their own tickets, they have contracts (CPAs) with the Majors they support and those CPAs expire and change. Sometimes they get better deals and there’s expansion but sometimes it goes the other way. As I said I was very happy at my Regional for a while but one day we lost a bunch of flying to another Regional who underbid us and the next day there were furloughs, downgrades and base closures. The thing that really freaked me out was I was on a crew shuttle with an older (60) Comair pilot (previously Comair had been a TOP Regional). Comair was in negotiations with Delta and Delta wanted MAJOR concessions. All he kept saying was he wanted the airline to continue for another 5yrs so he could retire. 2 weeks later Comair shut down and this guy was on the street at 60. Not cool.

The reality is the airline industry is far from stable whether you fly for a Major or a Regional but at a Major the airline is more in control of it’s own fate rather than being dependent on the fate of another entity. That does seem to add some stability. Bottomline I have a few friends who are still at the Regionals and plane to retire with them. They’re happy and have great lives for the most part. That said my friend Paul who’s been at his for 20+ years finds himself having to move after 20+ years because they’re closing his base. But Paul is still happy, pretty much.

Adam

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Thank you so much,

I did not know bases can shut down independently from the airline itself going down that is a scary thought. And thanks for highlighting those 3 things. I was willing to give up flying bigger and farther, and the pay, but job security is a major consideration. Do you personally have any insight on Envoy Air?

I understand that it is largely unpredictable, but is there any recommended sources to know how an airline is doing, possible future changes, things to look out for etc. Airlinepilotcentral has been a great resource but much of the time feels like its people who complain or belittle each others opinions making it hard to know who is right and what information is solid.

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Alex,

Unfortunately I don’t have any insight into Envoy in particular. That said Envoy is wholly owned by American. That’s good financially because as long as AA is doing well they’ll be solid and right now everyone is doing well.

As you said there is however tremendous unpredictability. Back in 2006 United filed bankruptcy and now they’re back on top? While I hate to paint a dark picture I always tell people that virtually EVERY Major airline from when I was a kid (Eastern, TWA, Pan Am, Braniff, National, Continental etc) are all GONE! Again not trying to scare anyone, just saying.

Alex my friend there is one certainty in aviation and that is that MANY pilots (not all) LOVE to complain! APC is a great forum but you really have to take much of it with a grain of salt. If you look at the Major naysayers and track their posts you will see a long history of moaning and groaning. I actually had one Capt tell me I’m not a REAL pilot because I don’t complain enough :slight_smile:

Adam

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I’ve also been reading that regional airlines may be a dying breed, and after researching with your example of an airline going down and over qualified pilots being unemployed or heavily underpayed from starting at the bottom. It was something about planes having more seats, rise of legacy airlines, and ive seen some people say Reginals could be gone in the next 4 or so years?

Can you give some insight on that?

Lmao you should work on being more nitpicky!

Alex,

The regionals are not going anywhere anytime soon. All of the legacy airlines have long term contracts in place with their regionals, in fact United just signed a new deal with Air Wisconsin.

Let’s not forget here that while some of the regionals have shrunk, the flying hasn’t gone away, it has gone to mainline and that is a great thing for everybody.

Chris

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Just to check if I understand, does mainline mean more jobs for the majors and less jobs for regional? Or that majors are outsourcing more to regionals?

Alex,

Mainline and major are synonymous terms. So “mainline” United refers to the large airplanes (Airbus, 737, etc) that fly under the name United and are flown by pilots that are directly employed by United Airlines. “Regional” refers to the airlines that operate under the name “United Express” and fly the smaller jets, usually less than 75 seats.

So when a route goes from “express” to “mainline” it means more jobs for pilots at the major, which is a great thing.

Chris

For what it is worth, SkyWest just opened 2 new domiciles in San Diego and Boise.

Thanks for clearing that up

Alex,

Let’s please keep the forum free of politics. Thanks.

Chris