A Compass E175 prepares to land at Los Angeles International Airport.
Change continues at Compass Airlines where the carrier further adjusts its business plan and priorities to meet shifting needs. In the last two years alone, Compass has moved its operation to large West Coast cities, despite the midwestern location of its headquarters.
In addition, pilot turnover continues to be a challenge as opportunities at national and mainline carriers prompt many Compass pilots—and flyers from other fee-for-departure (FFD) airlines—to build their hours and jet experience and then transition to these larger operations. Compass also continues to look for new flying opportunities as one of its mainline contractors, Delta Air Lines, recently opted to phase out its contract with the FFD carrier by mid-2020.
“These and other developments have compelled us to increase our focus on providing career-progression opportunities so that pilots can make an informed decision regarding their futures, as our number one priority is our membership,” said Capt. Thomas Vanden Berg, the pilot group’s Master Executive Council (MEC) chair and Seniority Block 2 representative.
“The MEC continues to do all it can to maintain and improve the working conditions and quality of life for new pilots who come to our airline and those who opt to stay with us,” he said. As part of this support, Vanden Berg observed that MEC volunteers continue to educate members about current collective bargaining provisions and the need for contract enforcement to ensure that Compass pilots get what they are entitled to. The pilot group has an active Grievance Committee, and members are encouraged to engage the team whenever they feel the terms of their agreement or its intent have been violated.
“For those pilots who want to take advantage of career-progression opportunities elsewhere, we’re working with our partners at other ALPA pilot groups to organize recruitment events,” Vanden Berg added. To that end, the Compass MEC reached out to its Association counterparts at Alaska Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, and Spirit Airlines during 2019 to schedule several recruiting activities. The pilots have also been in contact with the JetBlue MEC to organize similar future events.
To supplement these efforts, the MEC has coordinated résumé and interview workshops to educate participating pilots about national and mainline carrier expectations and hiring practices. Vanden Berg noted, “We want our members to know that regardless of whether they choose to stay at Compass or move on to another carrier, ALPA will be there to assist them in accomplishing their career goals.”
Loss of the Delta flying has led many to wonder about the airline’s future and how it will replace the flying. “Compass has stated there is a new flying opportunity in the works, although so far it has yet to materialize,” said Vanden Berg. “We remain hopeful that Compass can close the deal on this new opportunity and secure the future of the company.”
The transitional nature of pilot employment at Compass has always been part of its culture. The airline opened its doors in 2007 as a Northwest Airlink carrier, providing feed for and pilot flow through to Northwest Airlines. The mainline carrier merged with Delta a year later, and Delta sold Compass to Trans States Holdings.
Compass continued operating as a Delta Connection carrier and in 2016 began service with American Airlines, operating 20 aircraft under the American Eagle brand. And in 2017, Compass shifted its operations to the west, even though the airline’s headquarters remains near the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The airline continues to fly Embraer E175s as part of the American Eagle network, but time will tell what the future holds for this former Northwest subsidiary.