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American Airlines shifting more planes away from Envoy

American Airlines Group said Friday that it will transfer at least 50 planes away from its Envoy Air unit, leading to more shrinkage at the regional carrier.

A spokeswoman wouldn’t say how many jobs would be cut, but the pilots union said each plane represented 10 flying jobs — 500 total. Envoy has about 2,400 pilots.

“We are working now to determine the exact timing and impact on our people, but it is clear we will need to adjust staffing in certain groups as our flying decreases,” Envoy CEO Pedro Fabregas said in a memo.

The company said that beginning next year, at least 20 of the 50-seat Embraer jets will be shifted to Piedmont Airlines, also owned by American. The rest will go to Trans States Airlines and another outside carrier, which it didn’t name.

American has been shrinking Envoy since March, when union pilots rejected a contract offer that they said included a pay freeze and benefit cuts. American is trying to limit the cost of its regional service, called American Eagle, partly by outsourcing some of the flying. American uses 11 regional carriers to operate Eagle flights.

American Senior Vice President Kenji Hashimoto said in a memo to employees that the decision to move the planes was based solely on forecasts that the regional carrier won’t have enough pilots to operate its planned schedule next year.

“Envoy continues to provide reliable service, its employees serve our customers well, and the company remains an important part of American Airlines Group. However, in today’s competitive environment, pilots want to work for carriers that are actively growing and expanding their fleets,” Hashimoto said.

“Without a cost-effective pilot agreement in place, Envoy will not secure new jets and faces challenges in recruiting new pilots without the promise of a renewed fleet.”

Envoy is also losing about 20 pilots a month to American as they move up to the mainline carrier.

Pilots were disappointed by the loss of the planes, union Chairman Sam Pool said. But, he said, if they want American to stop taking away Envoy planes, they might have to accept pay and benefit cuts like pilots at other regional airlines.

This report includes material from The Associated Press.