Release #05.MSA
December 16, 2005

Mesaba Pilots to Picket MAIR Holdings, Airports Nationwide
Bankruptcy viewed as shell game and ploy to attack labor contracts

MINNEAPOLIS -- Picket lines staffed with uniformed airline pilots from Mesaba Airlines will be visible in downtown Minneapolis, as well as at several major airports around the country on Monday, December 19. The pilots are protesting drastic contract and benefit cuts recently demanded by a management that rewards itself with very generous salaries, bonuses, and stock at levels that far exceed other regional and mainline airline executives. Mesaba Airlines flies as a Northwest Airlink partner for Northwest Airlines.

One of the picket lines will be set up outside of MAIR Holdings headquarters at 5th Street and Marquette Avenue in Minneapolis, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. MAIR is the parent company of Mesaba Airlines.

Other picket lines will be set up at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County, and Memphis International airports between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. locally.

Mesaba Airlines filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 in October, but Mesaba’s parent company, MAIR Holdings, is not in bankruptcy and retains over $120 million in cash and equivalents. Mesaba produces 95% of MAIR’s revenue. 

“Enron wrote the book on mismanagement for the benefit of a few, but Mesaba and MAIR Holdings are adding a new chapter. If it weren’t for the transfers of Mesaba’s earnings to MAIR Holdings, we wouldn’t be in bankruptcy today,” says Captain Tom Wychor, Chairman of the Mesaba unit of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int'l. (ALPA) “We recognize that when a carrier is truly in distress, relief may be appropriate. This is not that case.”

ALPA has long criticized the siphoning of profits from Mesaba to subsidize both MAIR and MAIR’s other subsidiary, Big Sky Airlines -- a small regional carrier in Montana that has not earned a profit since it was purchased in 2002.

“This is simply a corporate shell game,” states Wychor. “MAIR Holdings takes virtually all of Mesaba’s profits, places Mesaba in bankruptcy, and then Mesaba claims it can’t meet its obligations to either its creditors or its employees.” 

A first year pilot at Mesaba earns just $21,186 today. Management wants to slash that pay to $17,626 annually. If that pilot elects to use the health benefits offered at Mesaba, under the terms of management’s latest proposal, his gross take home pay falls to an astounding $13,157 annually. The 2005 federal poverty guideline for a family of four is $19,350.

ALPA’s current contract with Mesaba runs until 2009, and has been praised by Mesaba President John Spanjers. He has stated that the pilot contract “should position us well to compete for growth,” and that the contract would “…also allow us to manage our costs through the continuing uncertainties in the airline industry.”

Mesaba Airlines operates as a Northwest Airlink partner under a service agreement with Northwest Airlines. Currently, Mesaba Aviation serves 111 cities in 30 states and Canada from Northwest’s and Mesaba’s three major hubs: Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Memphis. Mesaba employs 900 professional airline pilots who operate an advanced fleet of 100 regional jet and jet-prop aircraft consisting of the 69-passenger Avro RJ85, the 50-passenger CRJ-200, and the 30- 34-passenger Saab SF340.

Founded in 1931, ALPA represents 63,000 pilots at 40 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at for more information.

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ALPA CONTACTS: Anya Piazza - (703) 481-4440
MSP - Jonathan Marut - (612) 889-3591
DTW - Annmarie Savitski - (734) 516-3534
MEM - Jim Turner - (321) 591-4293