A Compass E175 at Sacramento International Airport.
Compass Airlines has been through a significant transition since it first began operations in 2007. Originally a wholly midwestern carrier with regional flights feeding passengers to Northwest Airlines hubs in Minnesota, Michigan, and Tennessee, after the 2008 merger of Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines, Compass became a Delta Connection carrier flying nearly exclusively in the western half of the United States.
This transition to the west in 2017 allowed the company to better serve its mainline partners and follow new opportunities in the booming West Coast airline market. With the closing of its Minneapolis, Minn., domicile, the airline added a new pilot base in Phoenix, Ariz., to its existing Los Angeles, Calif., and Seattle, Wash., domiciles.
“With these additions, the regional carrier solidly established itself as a West Coast feeder for Delta and American Airlines,” noted Capt. Thomas Vanden Berg, the pilot group’s Master Executive Council (MEC) chair.
In September 2018, chairmen from each of the Compass Airlines pilot committees joined the pilot group’s MEC for a conference at its Minneapolis offices. The meeting of more than 20 pilot volunteers was not only a training opportunity—as attrition has led to high turnover within the group—but also a chance to align the pilot committees and focus on unified goals.
“For many of the pilots, Compass is their first airline,” said Vanden Berg. “We’ve worked hard to streamline access to the ALPA resources that are vital to Compass pilots. With all the committee chairs in one room, we were able to determine the best path forward to provide these essential services.”
The pilot group remained steadfast in its commitment to contract enforcement during 2018. At the beginning of the year, there were more than 30 open grievances on file with management. However, that February the pilots and management reached an agreement to settle the grievances, increase captain pay, and extend the contact by two years through 2022.
The MEC continues to engage Compass management on quality-of-life improvements to enhance the working conditions at Compass. Since mid-2017, the company has faced staffing challenges resulting in excessive junior assignments and schedule changes, which led to a grievance over the excessive junior assignments and other staffing-related contractual violations.
“The company has overworked the pilots through most of the last year and a half and even canceled vacations at one point,” said Vanden Berg. “It owes it to the pilots to acknowledge their hard work and agree to develop contractual provisions that will improve their quality of life at Compass and keep the company competitive in the rapidly changing regional landscape.”