American Eagle Pilot Deal Could Mean Faster Transition to the Major Airlines

Last night American Eagle’s pilots union reached an labor contract with the regional carrier’s management that guarantees that Eagle will fly 60 new Embraer 175 planes that parent American Airlines ordered last month.

Under the 10-year contract, Eagle pilots’ pay rate scales will be frozen until 2018, their contributions to health insurance will rise starting in 2015 and they will see enhanced flowthrough opportunities to American Airlines. The new contract also includes options for Eagle to operate 90 other Embraer 175 aircraft, the regional carrier and the union said.

If other airlines decide to follow trends set in the new tentative labor agreement between American Eagle and the Airline Pilots Association, then regional airline pilots who fly for other Regional’s could be moving up to positions at mainline airlines a lot quicker than in the past.

But, on the positive side of the ledger, American Eagle president Pedro Fabregas wrote to union members that “the time it takes for many of our pilots to qualify and be given priority over external candidates for pilot positions at American with this enhanced flow through will be nearly cut in half, allowing our current pilots to quickly advance and grow their careers at both Eagle and American.”

Among several provisions dealing with enhanced flow through from American Eagle to American Airlines, the agreement states that American Eagle would not restrict the transition of pilots from American Eagle to American to fewer than 30 per month.

Kit Darby, an aviation consultant who points to an acute pilot shortage that is presently affecting Regional Airlines, said he believes that major airlines will likewise “strengthen or institute new flow-through agreements along with signing bonuses (already at $5,000 to $10,000″ for new-hire regional airline pilots).

Despite the frozen pay rates at American Eagle most pilots will focus on the fact that the agreement calls for them speeding their move “to AA mainline ASAP,” Darby says.

Darby says the U.S. aviation industry still will have to cope with the fact that it doesn’t have enough pilots to cover retirements, increased training requirements to get a pilot certificate, and new pilot rest rules, among other factors.