The Future Of The Regionals

Hi Everybody,

I had been wondering about it and would love to hear your view on the following:
Technology evolves rapidly and our entire national airspace is constantly being restructured as ATC, digital and GPS based equipment is continuously being improved and established as mainstream. The transition from land based to satellite based navigation technology enables us to redistribute traffic and unclog air routes as more “real estate” becomes available navigating directly from A to B, versus bottlenecking through VOR and other land based navaids.

I wonder if that will eventually lead to the erosion of the classic “hub and spokes” system which divides air our airline industry into the Majors and Regionals. Regionals might morph into independent airlines serving an entirely different network of routes and connections as opposed to feeding the Majors as near infinitely many new routes become manageable.

What do you think the repercussions could be for the Regionals? More routes might lead to more flights, bigger fleets, more demand for crews. It might open the gates for a more dynamic market, growth and therefore more opportunities for the industry. Regionals could become more similar to the Majors as they are competing for more routes and better service.

What’s your take on this and what might be the consequences for pilots, job market, salaries, etc.?

Cheers,
Oliver

Oliver,

I couldn’t disagree more. GPS has been here a while now, VORs are seldom used and I don’t care what technology is introduced, many airspaces (NY, Chicago, ATL, etc) will NEVER have enough real estate to accommodate the traffic. If anything we’re seeing the exact opposite of what you’re suggesting. Regionals were originally created and owned by the Majors. The Majors sold them off in an effort to give themselves more bargaining power but they’ve recently started acquiring them back. The hub and spoke system has nothing to do with congestion it’s simple math. It doesn’t pay to fly a 787 into Boise and you can’t fly an RJ to Paris from JFK. Also the Majors don’t want to compete in small markets, it’s not where their money is made. If anything we may see the Regionals get absorbed completely by the Majors but I believe they still like the flexibility of not.

Adam

Hi Adam,

Oh, interesting. Yes, that is a great insight from you. Thank you. I always thought that the capacity of our NAS was limited by the nature of having inflexible land based navaids, airways, etc. … and that point-to-point would enable more routes than hub/spokes. Subsequently, the number of possible routes would somewhat determine the size of the market. I understand that Majors and Regionals serve different markets but I thought the Regionals might overlap more into some of the (perhaps longer) domestic routes served by the Majors.

But yes, instead, it would probably make sense for the Majors to absorb the Regionals. Do you think that this might lead to narrow the differences in standards, pilots’ working conditions, pay rates, etc. between Majors and Regionals (then part of the Majors)?

Oliver

Oliver,

I really think you’re over thinking this. Market size is determined by MARKET SIZE. Forget airways, NAVAIDS etc. If you’ve got LOTS of people, you’ve got a LARGE market, not so many people, not so large a market.

Regional pilots are held to the same standards as those at the Majors. As for pay and work rules that’s part of the reluctance on the part of the Majors. If a pilot works for an airline (Major or Regional) they’re bound by the pilot contract and IF the Majors were to absorb the Regionals they’d be forced to up the pay and improve the work rules which means less profits. Something they’d like to avoid if possible.

Adam

:smiley: … yes, naturally the majors would like to avoid lowering profits.

I’m smiling as you can probably guess what I am getting at. As a late-comer to the game and being bound to fly and retire at the Regional level I’m of course looking to see if there is a chance that my adventure of changing my career from software-development to flying for the airlines might get spiced up a little within the next 14 years before retiring. That said and knowing salary-ranges in my profession, it’s clear I’m not in for the money :slight_smile: In fact, pretty much anybody who I told about my career-jump (at age 51) thinks I’m nuts. Well, that’s ok.

I just think there must be more in life… a good new challenge! Like many, I have been into aviation since being a kid, flying gliders at 16, becoming a private pilot later in life and still today hanging with friends at the local airport and being active in our local aviation community. If the current times hold an opportunity, I’ll take it.

So, if the signs were to indicate improvements for Regional pilots, I would selfishly welcome them :slight_smile:

Thanks Adam for your time and great replies. I enjoy reading your other posts too.
Oliver

As Adam said, the structure of the airlines has absolutely nothing to do with air-route structures and everything to do with where people live.

I think part of what is being missed here is that regionals do not exist in the public’s mind. Sure, they might be on Airline XYZ, but in their mind, they are on Delta. The regionals do not market their own flights or provide much, if any of the infrastructure for their flights. When regional airlines have tried to start their own, independent airlines it has failed miserably each time.

The majors will not be absorbing the regionals anytime soon, there is very little incentive for them to do so. Right now they can own, or just control, the regionals and achieve the same goals as absorbing them would. What we are seeing is a movement of larger airplanes back into smaller cities. I am starting to see places like GRR, ROC, ORF, etc, cities that I have not seen mainline in for decades.

I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but the gap between regionals and the majors isn’t going to change. The regionals, while still a very respectable career, are like AAA baseball, you are only going to do so well. The majors are the majors and will always be such. As long as the regionals are dependent on the majors for their existence, this dynamic will not change.

This does not mean that a great career cannot be had at the regionals, just don’t expect it to become something more than that.

Oliver,

When older pilots come to the forum I try and ask about a career in aviation I try and be crystal clear about what they can and should expect. Could the Majors absorb the Regionals? Sure but I could also win PowerBall and I actually have a much better shot of getting attacked by a Tiger shark off my local beach. If you’re going to do this you should do it with your eyes WIDE OPEN and view how this career will be based on what it currently is (which is dramatically better than it was). If you could be content flying an RJ around the US as a feeder eventually making around $90k then by all means but if you’re going to be waiting for some radical change in the structure there’s a better chance you’ll find yourself very disappointed.

Adam

Hi Chris,

Oh, I’m pretty unemotional about it :slight_smile: Indeed I appreciate your honest feedback.
Do you think that the majors might increasingly push the Regionals out of their market segment, servicing the Regionals’ routes themselves? Though it would mean to acquire additional aircraft type more suited for those connections. The thought behind is: Could the days of Regionals (and their pilots) be counted in that scenario? How do you see this?

Thank you Chris.
Oliver

Hi Adam,

Thank you. As always, I like and appreciate your straight comments. As I mentioned in my previous email, I’m certainly not in for the money. If that was the case, I could rather sit it out and stick with very comfy 6 figures in the IT business I’m in. I am motivated by daring to make a radical change in my life, do something that fascinates me, challenges me, pushes me to acquire new skills and allows me to make a living too. Flying RJs, corporate or charter or even instruct and still have some time to run a biz on the side seems quite appealing to me. I’m not having expectations for the industry to change to my favor or false hopes to advance to a lavish cliché-lifestyle as an airline pilot. By now, I think I have a pretty realistic view on what my life would be as a, say, Regional pilot and sticking with it (provided the industry evolves as we hope). It is however, naturally, intriguing to imagine what the future might hold. Hence my curiosity for your views, with the experience and expertise you have.

I’m excited to just take the jump and dare making a radical change at age 51 and fly professionally.
Thank you all so much for your continuous feedback.

Cheers,
Oliver

Oliver,

I really do not see any dramatic changes happening in the industry. Cities like South Bend are always going to be served by smaller airplanes. I do not have a crystal ball, but I would not be worried about any dramatic changes in the next fifteen years.

Chris

Oliver,

Keep in mind that many times mainline planes and regional planes are flown on the same routes. During peak times of day the carrier may use the additional capacity of one of their mainline aircraft and during lower periods of the day, in order to offer more frequency to customers, they use a smaller regional jet.

Also, regionals don’t compete with the majors or sell tickets directly to consumers. They supplement them in smaller markets or during non-peak times in larger markets by selling space on their planes to the majors. Many regionals are also wholly or partially owned by the mainline carrier(s) they support. Hub and spoke is not going anywhere anytime soon.

What you’re talking about is already being done by LCC airlines like Allegaint, Spirit, Southwest and Frontier.

Jason