Real Answers from Real Pilots

Regional airlines, plans to go major

As you may notice I’ve been finding a question every other day to post on here, and you guys have been very helpful. I realize this will be a biased topic but I would like to hear what people have to say.

I am looking at some regional companies with plans of flying major, however I want to make sure I enjoy my time in the regionals as well. I was initially bent on shooting for envoy, but now I’m not so sure. It seems the employees aren’t very happy there.

What are your opinions on regionals, and why? Who would you fly for, and how it relates for transitioning into a major airline.?

Jacob,

Funny you should ask. I just had this conversation with my friend, who is
currently a CFI for ATP. He’s debating on which Regional to fly for and
when to apply. He’s been reading the news about Horizon and it’s making him
hesitant.

I can’t speak for every regional pilot out there. I am a fairly new FO at
Horizon myself, but just because someone else doesn’t enjoy their airline,
doesn’t mean you won’t too. And be careful of what you read online. Too
often do people blow things out of proportion. Typically what gets posted
online represents only a small fraction of the total number of pilots in
the industry. So, don’t put too much emphasis on it.

I chose Horizon because they had a good reputation, their company values
were in alignment with my personal values, and I wanted to be based on the
west coast. Given the current state of things, I have nothing to complain
about because I’m flying for the right reasons and I still have a job.

As for Envoy, I don’t know much about them, other than they have flow to
American, which by the way is not a guarantee. So, don’t let that be the
main reason why you want to work for them. Choosing an airline should be
based on company reputation, pay, aircraft, location, and whichever one
hires you. The last part is more important when applying to majors.
Regionals are hiring like crazy.

I think SkyWest is a safe option. A lot of people dislike the CRJs, but
aside from that it’s a huge company, they fly for “everyone” (not really
but you get the point), and I know a lot of pilots there now. They seem to
be happy.

Tory

I should be careful about using the word “safe.” Don’t take that literally. No one is safe in this industry. I should have said “relatively speaking, flying for SkyWest would be a ‘safe’ option.”

Tory

Jacob,

You probably won’t like my answer but here it is. What Regional you should fly for should be the furthest thought in you mind. Why? Because 2yrs is a lifetime in aviation and everything can and often does change. I don’t know if you know how Regionals work but the quick and dirty is Regionals operate hub and spoke for the Majors they support, bringing passengers from smaller markets (spokes) to the Majors bases (hubs) so they can fill up those big planes and fly everyone to Paris. How do the Majors decide what Regional they use? They contract them to. Those contracts are called CPA’s (Capacity Purchase Agreements) and like most contracts they expire every few years. When they do the Major opens the flying up for bid to the Regionals and as with most things the lowest bidder wins. What that means is the Regional that’s on top today could lose some, half or all it’s flying tomorrow. The one on the bottom could move to the top. Further if XYZ Regional wins the bid with a bargain basement price while that means more flying if the bid was below current cost it’s common practice for the airline to ask the work groups for concessions.

This was a long way of saying once you finish your training and begin instructing, that’s the time to start assessing the environment you’ll be going into vs speculating about what may or may not be 2+ years from now.

Adam

Appreciate the input from you both, and that is a solid point Adam. I am currently researching into so much I felt it necessary to at least check out regionals and see what is out there. I definitely have plenty to think about right now so I can put that on the back burner. Just something i wanted to be prepared for.

Jacob,

Unless your regional has a flow through to a major, it really does not matter which one you fly for in terms of getting to a major. For example, United does not care which regional an applicant works for, even if they are operating under the United Express banner. The majors are really just looking for quality of experience and not who an applicant is working for.

Now, the recent addition of AA flow throughs have changed things up a bit to where they are hiring directly from their subsidiaries at increased rates. I wouldn’t put too much stock in this though as a flow through is about as good as an “I.O.U.” from a friend that you occasionally see. United’s flow through agreements offer even less protection.

I would simply pick the regional that works best for your situation and focus on them when the time comes. I would not spend too much time focusing on negative employee comments, especially if found on the internet. There are a lot of keyboard warriors out there that just love to complain, no matter what. It is actually one of the reasons that we started this website, to counter all of the negativity with honest, straight forward answers.

Chris

Thanks Chris, the idea of flow through is very appealing, but as I said before I am very interested in persueing a 4 year degree once I can pay off my initial debt for this venture. To be quite honest MESA is a very attractive regional to me with its locations and incentives. However if there is the slight chance that envoy can get me to a major sooner, it may sway my choice. Now I understand that when people leave reviews most of the time it is because they personally are upset with something since most people don’t go out of their way to leave reviews of companies when everything is fine for them. I understand I have a long time to think about this, but this being a career change for me I want to make the right choice. Flying is what I want to do, I know I may not make a lot of money for the first few years, but seeing that wages are increasing and the bonuses should help knock my tuition down I have no issue with starting again. I want to make it to majors, and I hope someday I can. I am prior military and I know some airlines really like that, and if I can use that to my advantage then so be it.

A question I haven’t really seen asked much is the school considerations for online classes. Should I be looking at major universities, or will a lesser college degree be just fine. Also how much have some of you spent on online degrees? How much time did it take to complete say 3 years of education online?

Jacob,

The amount of time you need for a college degree really depends on what you major in, and what you’re good at. I can’t answer how concerned an airline is with where your degree is from, but speaking from the business world, it’s often do you have the degree and what do you know/what type of person are you aside from that degree. For example, I’ve worked with people who have a Harvard education and I went to Pitt and I am way better off than they are. I’ve hired plenty of employees and I basically make a decision on interviewing someone based on do they have the required degree, I could quite honestly care less where the degree is from. I make my hiring decision based almost solely on how the person interviews. You can tell way more about who someone is that way than looking at a sheet of paper that everyone else has as well.

I think picking a major is like picking your job, pick something you enjoy and are good at, and any time you put into your degree will feel less. I did my MBA online and it was very easy. I probably put about 2-3 hours a week in to complete all my assignments. I am naturally good at mathematics and retaining information, so accounting was relatively easy for me, but it would be very difficult for someone that isn’t good at either of those things. They are called credit hours for a reason, so basically if you take 15 credit hours, you should plan on spending about 15 hours a week on those classes. Some people need more and some need less, but it’s a good general rule. Hope that helps on the college side of things. I know when I was first going to college I too got so caught up in having a degree from a major college, but the reality of it is that most employers don’t care as long as you’re the type of person they are looking for.

Jacob,

Thomas had a great answer to your question. The only thing that I would add is that I would find a reputable and accredited college, preferably one that also has a physical presence, even if you do not go to it. I would stay away from the University of Phoenix type schools or anywhere else that promises a degree in a ridiculously short time frame.

Chris

Jacob,

The only thing I have to add is while I’ve never been a fan of aviation degrees (putting all your eggs in the aviation basket), I do know a few pilots who went with Embry Riddle for their online degrees. ER is a solid school with a great reputation but more important they’ll give you credit for your flying licenses and ratings knocking down the requirements (and cost) considerably. Might be worth taking a look?

Adam

This is all great to know, and I have experience as a helicopter mechanic and forklift mechanic and multiple certifications in automotive electronics. Emery Riddle was offered when I was overseas and it’s unfortunate I did not take advantage of it. I think that is probably the route to go seeing it will be more knowledge towards the career I am chasing and the credits will help.

I am currently a freshman working on my ratings at Oklahoma state aviation school. I am hesitant of being a pilot as my career path after doing a bit of reading online. I am planning to graduate in 2021 and apply for a regional carrier after obtaining hours instructing (will take maybe 2-3 years). Is this the right career decision if my plan is to fly for a major airline in the shortest amount of time? My only fear is that I will get stuck in a regional position making regional pay and not advance and move up to the big airliners. Thank you for your time reading this and i am looking forward to your response!

Connor,

Well, what’s your alternative? You are correct, you could possibly get stuck at a Regional BUT without flying for a Regional, building time, experience and a resume how else would you get to a Major? Continue flight instructing until Delta calls? I’m frankly confused what you’re asking?

Further there are worse things then getting “stuck” at a Regional. If you’re a good pilot, with a clean record and someone who can interview decent enough you should be fine but I spent 9yrs at ExpressJet and if that were as far as I ever went that would’ve been fine. Guess it depends why you’re becoming a pilot?

Adam

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Connor,

You are asking for a guarantee of making it to the majors, which is the pinnacle of the aviation industry. No career can guarantee you that you make it to the top. There is no guarantee of being a neurosurgeon, a partner in a major law firm, or being on the New York Yankees. All you can do is position yourself well for the majors. That means doing well in school, passing all (or most) of your checkrides on the first try, avoiding trouble with the FAA, not doing drugs, and keeping your criminal and driving record clean. If you do those things, you will be well positioned to apply for the majors.

Chris

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Hey Jacob,

For what it’s worth, I have absolutely loved my time at SkyWest. The other posts here are 100% correct though in saying that you should wait until closer to the time you are making your decision to take a look at the industry. It could look completely different than it does today. When I was going to the regionals, I had no preference on base or aircraft, I just wanted to enjoy flying and see what 121 was about. I had heard such good things about SkyWest from every single person that worked there, and I really enjoyed the culture that I experienced when I attended their cadet program.

Like Tory said, we may be the "safe"est choice. The company is doing extremely well and has been for a while. We have never furloughed a pilot. I am number 2400/4500 pilots in just under 3 years. We have 18 bases and growing. Upgrade on the CRJ is 1.5 years and 3 years on the ERJ. Our fleet by the end of next year will be nearly 500 - 149 of which will be ERJs. I do aircraft deliveries from Brazil and just picked up our newest Alaska ERJ - my 6th delivery. I also do recruiting and interviewing for the company. I do Mountainous Airport development with our fleet captain. I’ve also experienced a mechanical malfunction that led to an accident and full evacuation. I’ve been able to see this company through so many lenses and I am more and more impressed every day.

The thing I can tell you as far as making a decision is to talk to people! And not biased recruiters like myself haha although I’d like to think some of my information can be useful. But I can tell you now that one huge benefit of this company is that they treat their employees very well. And from what I hear from friends of mine elsewhere, that can be a serious issue. BUT - I also have to say that I have yet to meet a crewmember from another regional that was anything short of wonderful. Everyone is friendly and really we are all in this together. Things can go wrong for anyone at anytime.

Good luck in your career and keep up the research - it’s invaluable!

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That’s very good to hear, thanks for the input, it sounds like you thoroughly enjoy your company, I hope I can have a place I feel that greatly about!

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Hi Chris,

I was considering finishing my degree through an online school like University of Phoenix. I double checked and made sure they are Accredited. My friend joined the Air Force as an Officer with a University of Phoenix Degree so I was hoping if the Military accepted it, it would be respected by other employers. Is there anyone you know who is a Pilot for one of the Major Airlines with that type of Degree? Do you think the airlines would respect/accept it?

Thanks for your time!

Hi Chris,

I was considering finishing my degree through an online school like University of Phoenix. I double checked and made sure they are Accredited. My friend joined the Air Force as an Officer with a University of Phoenix Degree so I was hoping if the Military accepted it, it would be respected by other employers. Is there anyone you know who is a Pilot for one of the Major Airlines with that type of Degree? Do you think the airlines would respect/accept it?

Thanks for your time!

Devon,

I know people who have online degrees, but not from Phoenix. A quick Google search will show you that they have a history of problems, to include some very dishonest marketing practices and some serious government fines being paid. They also have a 5% graduation rate. I would find another online school that is more respected and isn’t just out to steal your money.

Chris

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To the first question. I was hired in the regionals in 2004 when starting FO pay was about $19/hr and it was a completely different game than the one played today. There were a lot of jaded pilots and the relationship with management wasn’t very good. That said, it was the most fun I’ve had in my career and the guys and girls I worked with are the closest aviation friends I have to date.

Pick the one you think you’ll like based on location and some other factors. I promise no matter how bad people might say it is doesn’t really matter… if flying is your passion you’re still going to have fun.