A PSA CRJ700 at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
For the last few years, PSA pilots and management have maintained an amicable relationship, steadily reaching letters of agreement, resolving grievances, and improving quality of life.
In late 2017, good news came for the pilot group when Capt. Travis Ricks, then the pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) chair, led the pilot group to ratify a deal that drastically improved pilot career flow to American Airlines, a unit of American Airline Group, PSA’s parent company. At the end of 2018, Ricks was among the pilots who were flowing up to American. PSA pilots who have about nine years of seniority are currently moving up to American at a rate of 10 per month. And if attrition stays at the current level, new hires can expect to flow through to American in about six to seven years.
“This is a great time to be at PSA,” said Capt. Steven Toothe, the pilot group’s MEC chair. “Our relationship with management is improving daily, and MEC and company leaders are committed to making our airline a better place to work.”
Last year, PSA saw the delivery of more than 12 CRJ700s transferred from Envoy Air, moving PSA toward its goal of 150 aircraft. The fleet is made up of 35 CRJ200s, 45 CRJ700s, and 35 CRJ900s. PSA has also announced that it will return 14 CRJ200s and replace them with 14 new CRJ900s in 2019. The carrier will also be taking delivery of seven CRJ700s from Envoy.
It’s a great improvement from 2016, when PSA struggled to increase the size of its pilot group to meet its jet delivery schedule, resulting in the cessation of the delivery of aircraft from Envoy. Today, PSA’s growth has hit a record high with the addition of more than 350 new pilots in 2018, bringing the pilot group to more than 1,850. The wholly owned carrier averaged about 20 pilots in each of its 2018 monthly new-hire classes.
With the opening of new bases in Norfolk, Va., and Philadelphia, Pa., in 2018, the carrier now maintains base operations in seven U.S. cities. And with new regional service to Toronto, Ont., and an additional route to Nassau, Bahamas, PSA has continued to maintain steady growth.
The focus on better schedules has resulted in good progress toward an industry-leading reserve system, in which reserve assignments are handled automatically by a flow designed by the MEC. Pilots now have the ability to be notified of trips via an iPad app. With a goal of eradicating company operational errors, the MEC has strived to remove antiquated manual processes. Now pilots who are displaced can request first in and last out on a trip-by-trip basis while on reserve, which will be honored by the automated system in seniority order.
“Now that we’ve helped improve the rate at which PSA pilots flow to American,” said Toothe, “we’re turning new efforts to supporting and retaining the pilots on the line and the new-hire classes we’re happy to have joining us.”
In response to the anticipated increase in the number of pilots and to boost retention, this year the MEC will launch a new mentoring program. Taking a proactive approach, mentors will help guide and advise their fellow pilots throughout their careers at PSA—especially in instances when they’d prefer to seek the guidance of a fellow line pilot rather than an instructor, either during or after training is completed.
To support the company in seeking creative ways to attract new crewmembers, pilot leaders established PSA Pilot Careers. This new website offers details on PSA’s collective bargaining agreement, the group’s annual State of the [Labor] Union publications, updates on the top issues facing pilots, and original content providing perspective on the lives of pilots at the regional carrier.
“It’s a good time to be a PSA pilot, and I believe that 2019 will be productive for both the pilot group and the airline,” Toothe observed.