But the trade-off may be a little too steep
Bottom line, there aren’t enough pilots or air traffic control operators.
A lot of pilots and other essential operators took buyouts and early retirements during the pandemic, which left the entire aviation industry in a bind when demand for travel snapped back strongly. (It also left a lot of people agitated when the lack of pilots meant their flight got delayed or canceled. That happened a lot last year.)
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As noted recently, the group hit hardest by the worker shortages are people who live in rural areas and smaller cities, as airlines are increasingly dropping connecting routes to these places from their schedule, including areas such as Ithaca, New York, Toledo, Ohio, and Dubuque, Iowa, amongst many others.
The result is that many, many people are essentially stranded, and have to drive hours to a large city if they want a flight.
But now SkyWest Inc. (LUV) – Get Free Report has launched its new subsidiary, SkyWest Charter, and it might be able to help with the situation.
SkyWest Inc. Chief Commercial Officer Wade Steel said during a first-quarter earnings call that SkyWest Charter has now received all of the necessary U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approvals to operate as a charter airline, and completed the requisite proving runs.
So now, SkyWest is allowed to operate charter aircraft, and it plans to target “small and underserved communities,” said SkyWest Inc. CEO Chip Childs.
By working as a charter airline, flying between small airports and larger ones, it allows the company to utilize “FAA’s Part 135 and 380 certifications that allows it to hire pilots with as little as 250 hours of experience compared to a minimum of 1,500 hours under the standard Part 121 certification used by all major scheduled U.S. airlines, including SkyWest Inc.’s main SkyWest Airlines operation,” notes Airline Weekly.
So this will make it easier for the SkyWest to train new pilots, and it will also make it easier for the pilots who get their charter licenses to eventually get their regular license.
The trade off, of course, is that, under Part 380 rules, airlines cannot operate planes with more than 30 seats. So it could potentially help, but not solve the problem.
It should be noted that this plan has garnered criticism from the Air Line Pilots Association, whose Captain Jason Ambrosi said SkyWest Inc.’s strategy would “roll back the clock and skirt the aviation safety rules.” He also said that the Department of Transportation should bar Part 135-certified airlines from operating government-subsidized essential air service routes, and should instead increase funding for the program to ensure air service continues.
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This story was originally published April 29, 2023, 8:00 AM.
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