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If other airlines emulate the faster flow through for pilots from positions at American Eagle to American Airlines, then that would help the mainline airlines, and might exacerbate the pilot shortage among regional airlines.

If other airlines decide to emulate aspects of the tentative labor agreement between American Eagle and the Airline Pilots Association, then regional airline pilots could be moving up to positions at mainline airlines a lot quicker than in the past.

The agreement, subject to ratification by the pilots, freezes pay rates until 2018.

But, on the positive side of the ledger, American Eagle president Pedro Fabregas wrote to union members that “the time it takes for many of our pilots to qualify and be given priority over external candidates for pilot positions at American with this enhanced flow through will be nearly cut in half, allowing our current pilots to quickly advance and grow their careers at both Eagle and American.”

Among several provisions dealing with enhanced flow through from American Eagle to American Airlines, the agreement states that American Eagle would not restrict the transition of pilots from American Eagle to American to fewer than 30 per month.

Kit Darby, an aviation consultant who argues that an acute pilot shortage is looming, said he believes that major airlines will likewise “strengthen or institute new flow-through agreements along with signing bonuses (already at $5,000 to $10,000” for regional airline pilots starting at the bottom rungs and who barely make minimum wage.

Despite the frozen pay rates at American Eagle most pilots will focus on the fact that the agreement calls for them speeding their move “to AA mainline ASAP,” Darby says.

Darby says the U.S. aviation industry still will have to cope with the fact that it doesn’t have enough pilots to cover retirements, increased training requirements to get a pilot certificate, and new pilot rest rules, among other factors.


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