Friday, April 6, 2018

Horizon Air gets first new jet since pilot crisis, pointing to an upturn

Regional carrier Horizon Air, a subsidiary of Alaska Air Group, this week received its first new jet since last year’s crisis over a shortage of pilots prompted it to reduce flights and suspend deliveries of the Brazilian-built Embraer E175 planes.

The new jet landed in Portland, Oregon, and will be integrated into the regional air carrier’s schedule later this month. Four more are to arrive before the end of May, and Horizon expects to take a total of 13 this year, bringing its E175 fleet to 23 aircraft.

These 76-passenger jets, featuring comfortable four-abreast seating, will take over the flying as Horizon retires some of its Q400 turboprop planes.
The E175 will also be the aircraft used on the new routes out of Paine Field in Everett, starting this fall.

The delivery is a clear sign of progress after Horizon’s year of turmoil in 2017.

The E175 deliveries were originally supposed to begin last year, but in September Horizon was forced to defer the first six because the airline didn’t have enough pilots to fly the planes.

This past summer and into the fall, Horizon had to cancel hundreds of flights, and parent company Alaska Air announced that to avoid further disruption it would hand over some of Horizon’s routes to rival regional carrier SkyWest.

That move was a big blow to employee morale.

It also sparked a lawsuit from the union representing Horizon pilots, Teamsters Local 1224, which alleged a breach of its 2016 contract, when the union granted concessions to management on the basis that the company’s investment in the E-175 jets would secure Horizon’s future.

In an internal Horizon staff newsletter, vice president of finance and planning Brooke Vatheuer expressed the relief employees felt at the new jet’s arrival.

“Growing the E175 fleet is essential to Horizon’s future, but I’m sure some of us thought these planes would never come,” she said.

As new Horizon CEO Gary Beck looks to a recovery, he’s also made some pragmatic cuts.

The airline has announced internally that in August it will end its daily service to Lewiston, Idaho, because that market has underperformed financially. The closure affects 14 Horizon employees based there.

And this summer, Horizon will close its airplane-maintenance operation in Medford, Oregon, cutting the jobs of eight employees based there.

(Dominic Gates - The Seattle Times)

No comments: