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RAA 2014: ExpressJet braced for rule change by being proactive in hiring

More than a year ago, officials at ExpressJet Airlines saw the looming pilot shortage on the horizon and quickly adjusted its hiring standards to gradually increase the required number of flight hours for new hires.

“We knew in advance the rule would be in effect,” explained Brad Holt, president and COO of ExpressJet, who said that the pilot shortage has been “a hot topic” at the airline. When the new rule was activated, only eight pilots had fewer than the new 1,500 hours. Those pilots were quickly brought up to speed.

“We have a turnover rate of about 50 a month,” said Holt. “Hiring is getting tougher, but we are keeping up with it at this point.”

ExpressJet operates a fleet of 411 aircraft to an estimated 200 cities in 43 states. Of the 10,000 employees at the carrier, 4,000 are pilots.

ExpressJet, like a number of other carriers that provide heavy service on the east coast corridor, was hit hard by severe winter weather forcing it to cancel more than 20,000 flights in the first quarter. “We were hit hard. I’ve not seen a year like this in the 30 years I’ve been in the business. My prediction is we will never see that again until it happens again,” he said with a smile. “It was an unusual year.”

Holt reported that 108 aircraft would be coming off lease by the end of 2015, the majority of which will be ERJ 135s and ERJ 145s. Mainline partners want larger aircraft with two classes of service, he explained. When asked if ExpressJet would consider replacing the smaller RJs with turboprops, Holt did not hesitate and said, “We are in the jet business and we don’t intend to go back.”

Sandra Arnoult, US correspondent, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines/LARAnews.net
St Louis, Missouri, USA

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