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Yet pay and working conditions at these airlines have always been substandard, and filling jobs was seldom a problem. Well, what’s different is that the regional sector has grown so large, now accounting for of all domestic departures in the United States!As recently as twenty-five years ago it was around 15 percent.
And by “regional” we’re referring to the numerous subcontractors who operate smaller jets (regional jets, or “RJs”) and turboprops on the majors’ behalf: those myriad “Connection” and “Express” companies, whose actual identities are concealed beneath the liveries of whichever major they are aligned with.The majors, also referred to as “legacy” carriers, are the ones people are most familiar with — American, United, Delta, Southwest, Jet Blue, et al.There is no pilot shortage at these companies, and unless something changes drastically they will continue to have a surplus of highly qualified candidates to choose from.Suddenly, pilots were being taken on with as little as 350 hours of total time, assigned to the first officer’s seat of sophisticated RJs and turboprops.Then came a rash of accidents, including the Colgan Air (Continental Connection) disaster outside Buffalo in 2009.
Things can change quickly in this business, but some regionals are, at least for now, better-staffed and all-around more pleasant places to work than others. However, we need to be clear which sectors of the aviation industry we’re talking about, and in which parts of the world.