Mesaba to close its Eagan headquarters, cut 193 jobs

  • Article by: STEVE ALEXANDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 21, 2011 - 9:08 PM

The regional airline, now owned by Pinnacle, will eliminate nearly 200 Minnesota jobs as it moves to Memphis.

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Mesaba Airlines headquarters in Eagan.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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Despite promises to the contrary, Mesaba Airlines will permanently close its Eagan headquarters Dec. 26 at the behest of owner Memphis-based Pinnacle Airlines. Both airlines are regional carriers for Delta Air Lines.

In the process, Pinnacle will cut 193 Mesaba jobs in Eagan, out of a total of about 800 Mesaba jobs in Minnesota. The closing of Mesaba headquarters and the number of workers affected was disclosed in a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) letter to the mayor of Eagan dated Oct. 14.

It remains unclear whether some of those employees will get other jobs with Pinnacle in Memphis, Pinnacle spokesman Joe Williams said Friday. That will be resolved by the end of the year, he said.

"There is no impact on air service or passengers," Williams said.

Pinnacle flatly declared that Mesaba's headquarters would remain in Eagan under its own management in a July 2010 statement. But on Friday, Williams said that closing the headquarters "was the plan from the beginning. The headquarters would be in Eagan, but not indefinitely."

The headquarters closure follows the appointment earlier this month of Mesaba operating chief John Spanjers, based in Eagan, to be the next Pinnacle chief operating officer, based in Memphis.

Founded in 1944, Mesaba is the longest-flying regional airline in the United States. Delta Air Lines sold it to Pinnacle Airlines for $62 million last year.

While Pinnacle will keep alive the Mesaba corporate name, Mesaba will henceforth be headquartered in Memphis.

Remaining in the Twin Cities will be the Mesaba training facility in Eagan, and the Mesaba pilot group and maintenance organization at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, Williams said.

The shutdown of Mesaba headquarters in Eagan comes at a time when all domestic airlines are cutting expenses and coping with higher fuel prices and an uncertain economy. Airlines are scheduling fewer flights and squeezing more passengers onto the remaining flights.

Williams said the closure of the headquarters is unrelated to those trends because, as a regional airline operating as a subcontractor for Delta, Pinnacle doesn't decide the number of flights that will be scheduled.

Steve Alexander • 612-673-4553

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