Endeavor pilots are flying mad about its new hiring plan

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Ryan Gumm, President & CEO of Endeavor Air showed off the new company logo, during the ribbon cutting ceremonies at the Endeavor Air headquarters, formerly Pinnacle Airlines, at the Minneapolis St. Paul Airport on 6/26/13.] Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune bbisping@startribune.com

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

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The pilots of Twin Cities-based Endeavor Air are upset with parent company Delta Air Lines Inc.’s plan to ensure a long-term career for new hires at the regional carrier.

Endeavor pilots still are smarting from pay and work-rule concessions they took during the bankruptcy reorganization of their former company, Pinnacle Airlines, which was acquired out of bankruptcy by Delta and renamed Endeavor in 2013.

Capt. Jonathan Allen, chairman of the Endeavor chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association, said in a statement: “To be asked to accept that new-hire pilots, who gave nothing to rescue this company from bankruptcy and who have not played a part in its revitalization, are more valuable to the airline and the brand than our current pilots is intolerable.

“The [union] has stressed the need for a broader solution to Endeavor’s hiring problems, one which addresses job progression to Delta, pay and bene­fits for Endeavor’s current pilots, and demonstrates a level of commitment to current Endeavor pilots on par with what Delta and Endeavor have just given new hires. Currently, nearly every Endeavor first officer’s pay is capped at a wage much lower than their peers at other regional airlines, and many have been stuck in the co-pilot’s seat for as many as seven or eight years without the opportunity to be promoted to higher-paying captain positions, a trend worsened by the fact that captains continue to be forced back to first officer jobs as Endeavor Air’s fleet of airplanes shrinks.”

Delta announced last week its “Endeavor-to-Delta” joint hiring program that gives new regional carrier pilots a career path to the bigger carrier, as long as they pass the requisite tests and certifications along the way. Regional airlines, including Endeavor, pay their pilots much less than Delta pilots, who generally fly bigger planes longer distances. But the difference is lost on the public, because the aircraft all say “Delta.”

Delta and Endeavor are starting the joint hiring program because they say it will allow them to hire the best talent if they can promise a career path that likely will lead to a Delta job.

A spokeswoman for Delta said the only difference is that existing Endeavor pilots also will have a shot at flying for Delta.

“Current pilots are eligible for streamlined hiring by Delta,” said Delta’s Kate Modolo. “No pilot hired under the Endeavor-to-Delta program will be hired by Delta before every current pilot at Endeavor has an opportunity to interview. Nobody is going to jump anybody’s seniority.”

Modolo said the new program just means new hires will get a two-day hiring process from Endeavor and Delta. Current Endeavor pilots will still have to interview for Delta jobs before they are promoted because they were only interviewed by Endeavor to fly Endeavor regional jets. Endeavor pilots are expected to fill approximately one-third of Delta’s future pilot hiring needs.

For several reasons, there is a shortage of qualified commercial pilots to replace aging baby boomers at major carriers. Delta wants to hire 600 a year to replace 500 annual retirees and to staff growth after a decade of recession and industry consolidation that led to little hiring by the major carriers.

Minnesota Tourism Numbers Projected Northward

A pre-summer survey revealed a positive summer outlook for Minnesota businesses that make a buck off visitors and vacationers.

“Based on industry results, I’m optimistic about the upcoming summer season,” said John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota, the state’s tourism marketing department. “Consumers are feeling good about the economy and spending once again this year. Minnesota is an affordable destination and a close-to-home getaway for our target markets.”

Results from an Explore Minnesota spring survey of Minnesota lodging and camping businesses: About 85 percent expect the same or higher occupancy and 46 percent also expect an increase in revenue for the summer season. Additionally, a combined 79 percent of respondents rated their businesses’ current financial health as positive, with 24.5 percent reporting growth and 54.8 percent reporting stability.

The survey was of 245 businesses, including hotels and motels, resorts, B&Bs, campgrounds and vacation home rentals.

Consumer confidence and consumer spending are both up nationwide going into the summer travel season, according to the U.S. Travel Association. And the association’s March 2014 Travel Sentiment Index, a predictor of travel over the next six months, was at its highest point since its inception in 2007.

Edman believes he’s loaded for bear because the 2013 Minnesota Legislature raised his budget from $8.4 million last year to $13.9 million for 2014 and 2015. That’s paying for media marketing, including social media, and at transit stations in several additional states, including Illinois and Colorado.

The new travel marketing campaign, Only in Minnesota, positions the state as a one-of-a-kind Midwest travel destination, from lakes to arts to sports. Increased marketing has led to a sharp increase in visits to Explore Minnesota’s new website. According to recent research, each dollar spent on Minnesota state tourism advertising generates $84 in spending by visitors, according to Explore Minnesota.

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