Envoy Air may need only half as many pilots after American Airlines Group downsizes the regional carrier, the airline’s pilots union said Thursday.In a note to pilots, the Air Line Pilots Association said American plans to park 59 small regional jets and transfer 47 larger regional jets away from its subsidiary carrier. As a result, Envoy will need 47 percent fewer pilots, the union said.“Currently, the future looks very bleak,” said Bill Sprague, chairman of the union’s master executive council, adding that the carrier won’t have any aircraft to replace the ones it is losing.Envoy has about 2,700 pilots. With current fleet plans, it will need only about 1,430 to staff its operations. Envoy has 12,000 workers, although 8,000 are dedicated to ground services operations, in which it performs baggage-handling and gate operations for other airlines at smaller airports.The news comes about a month after the pilots voted down a proposed union contract that would have provided Envoy with larger aircraft in exchange for a pay scale freeze until 2018 and other concessions. During the contract talks, American Airlines Group management, which owns Envoy, had threatened to take regional aircraft away from Envoy if the pilots did not approve the contract.Sprague said the company intends to park 59 Embraer 140s and transfer 47 CRJ-700s to another third-party regional carrier to operate under the American Eagle brand. No timetable has been set for the drawdown, he said.Last week, during the corporation’s earnings conference call, Scott Kirby, president of American Airlines Group, confirmed that the airline is in final negotiations with a couple of regional carriers to fly new, larger Embraer 175s and will announce which carrier will fly them under the American Eagle brand.But it will not be Envoy Air, which just recently changed its name from American Eagle, Kirby said, emphasizing that “Envoy is still an important part of the airline.”Sprague said that 20 of the new Embraer 175s will go to a carrier that can take delivery of the airplanes next year and that another 20 will go to a different regional carrier later. “If this is true, we will not have any expectations, based on [American Airlines Group’s] current aircraft orders, of being offered any new aircraft for about four years,” Sprague said.He also quashed rumors that Envoy will be merged with Piedmont Airlines, another regional carrier owned by American Airlines Group that was once part of US Airways.Envoy, which recently announced that it will move its headquarters to Irving, does not plan to try to attract regional flying contracts from other airlines like United Airlines or Delta Air Lines.Envoy President Pedro Fabregas said last month that he does not plan to announce any furloughs at the carrier even as it retires the older 44-seat Embraer 140s. The carrier is hiring about 15 pilots a month, but it’s losing about 44 a month who retire, leave for other jobs or are hired at American’s main operation, he said.
Andrea Ahles, 817-390-7631 Twitter: @Sky_Talk