One of the most interesting aspects of my job as Regional Jet Program Director for ATP is speaking with airline recruiters about hiring the graduates of our Regional Jet Standards Certification Program. Recently I have been speaking with a lot of recruiters as airline hiring builds momentum, and today I had a chance to speak with the consummate recruiting professionals at ASA and ExpressJet. I had the same questions shared by a lot of aspiring airline pilots going into the conversation. What’s happening with pilot hiring under the ASA and ExpressJet merger? Is ASA really hiring pilots for both airlines? Which airline are they hiring for now? How do pilots decide which carrier to fly for, and do pilots really have a choice? I asked those questions and want to share the details of what I found.
As widely reported, both Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA) and ExpressJet were purchased in the relatively recent past by SkyWest, Inc. SkyWest has merged both ASA and ExpressJet, but both airlines continue to operate under separate Air Carrier Certificates and with pilot groups which are being kept unmerged for now.
It is SkyWest’s stated objective to operate both airlines under one certificate after the beginning of the next year. Merging the pilot groups will take longer, but it is encouraging that both groups are represented by the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) and SkyWest appears dedicated to having the two pilot groups integrated into one seniority list as soon as it is practical.
At this time, Recruiters at ASA are doing the interviewing and hiring of pilots for both ASA and ExpressJet. They have been selecting highly qualified pilots from the rapidly expanding pool of pilots using the latest recruiting tool at Pilotpool.com. They are bringing these pilots to Atlanta for interviews and then offering them ground-school class dates. These recruiters are working diligently to fill an April 25th ExpressJet ground-school class with 38 newly hired pilots. After they have met that goal, these same recruiters will work to fill a May 22nd ASA ground-school class with 12 new pilots.
One distinct difference between the two airlines that pilot recruits are taking into consideration is the junior crewbases which a newly trained First Officer can expect to be based.
ASA’s junior crew base is Dulles (Washington, D.C.) where ASA operates flights for United Airlines. Newly minted ExpressJet First Officers can expect to be based in either Chicago or Newark flying the ERJ.
Even though the distinction between being an ExpressJet pilot or an ASA pilot will fade with time, pilots being interviewed are asked which airline they wish to fly for initially and their preference is being noted so they may accommodated if possible. I personally know of the extent that ASA is going to when it comes to placing candidates with the operation they wish to fly for, but it is becoming a harder choice for pilots to make as time goes along. Both airlines are outstanding operations to fly for, and have existing contracts that offer very similar pay rates and work rules. The bottom line for these new recruits is that “Seniority is Everything” so I have been advising them to not waste time deliberating between ASA or ExpressJet when they could instead be climbing the seniority list at their airline ahead of others who hesitated in moving forward with flight training and getting the job.
I would like to offer one last interesting nugget, although it can’t be confirmed at this time. As I have spoken with knowledgeable sources within the industry, I understand that ASA is looking into placing a crew base in Denver to handle more flights for United Airlines which has a large presence at Denver International Airport.