New pilot contract keeps Mesaba flying

Mesaba Airlines has reached a tentative agreement on a new contract for its pilots with the the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). Negotiations had been on-going since 2001, and had become increasingly acrimonious. After the National Mediation Board declared negotiation to be at an impasse, the pilot union issued a strike deadline for 9 January, at the end of a federally-mandated 30-day “cooling off period.” In anticipation of the strike, the airline cancelled all its flights on Saturday 10 January, so that it could bring in all its aircraft to its maintenance bases. In the event, negotiations continued past the strike deadline and an agreement was reached, allowing full operations to resume on 11 January. The new contract reportedly bring Mesaba’s pilot pay and work rules to a level comparable with those at Delta Connection carrier Comair, whose 2001 contract is generally considered one of the best in the regional airline industry. The airline is still awaiting a decision from Northwest Airlines on the fate of its fleet of Avro RJ85s, which it operates on behalf of Northwest Jet Airlink. Northwest indicated last fall that it was considering ending the contract because of high costs. A decision has been repeatedly postponed, raising suspicion among the pilots that the move was intended to put pressure on them in the negotiations. Five RJ85s have already been parked, bringing Mesaba’s active fleet to thirty.

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