Pilots’ union sues Horizon Air over deferral of 6 jet deliveries

Horizon Air is deferring delivery of six Embraer 175 jets due to a shortage of pilots. Concerned that the jets may go to rival carrier SkyWest, the Teamsters union representing the pilots has filed for an injunction to ensure only Horizon can fly the planes.

The ongoing pilot shortage at Horizon Air, which already has caused hundreds of flight cancellations this year, has now forced management to defer delivery of six Embraer 175 jets because the airline doesn’t have enough pilots to fly the planes.

Concerned that management at Alaska Air Group’s regional carrier may lease the jets to rival SkyWest, the Teamsters union representing the pilots on Friday sought a federal court injunction to ensure only Horizon pilots can fly the aircraft.

Horizon, which until this year flew only turboprop aircraft, now has nine 76-seat E175s in service, with another coming next week. Those are part of a firm order for 33 of the jets from Brazilian manufacturer Embraer.

Chief executive Dave Campbell said three E175s are being deferred this fall and three more in the spring.

“As to what is going to happen with those aircraft, nothing has yet been finalized,” Campbell said.

He said the jet deferrals were necessary because the pilot shortage requires a slowdown in Horizon’s planned fleet growth. Still, he insisted the deferrals are a temporary “pause.”

The six deferred jets will go to Horizon next year, said Campbell. By the end of 2018, all 23 of the E175 deliveries previously planned for this year and next will be at Horizon, he said.

“At that time, we will have the same number of jets as initially planned,” Cambell wrote in a message to all staff sent Wednesday.

That same day Teamsters Local 1224, which represents the 800 or so Horizon pilots, wrote to its members expressing concern that in the interim the jets will be delivered to SkyWest.

Regional carrier SkyWest, headquartered in St. George, Utah, already operates aircraft for Alaska Air Group as an external contractor, feeding passengers into the mainline Alaska Airlines flights just as Horizon does.

Though Horizon is an in-house subsidiary of Alaska Air, it effectively competes with SkyWest for Alaska Air business.

Alaska Air had earlier announced that SkyWest will take over some of Horizon’s routes this fall to try to avoid further cancellations.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Seattle says Greg Unterseher, director of representation for…

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