SkyWest orders more jets it will fly for Alaska Air, reflecting Horizon’s troubles

Regional carrier SkyWest Airlines ordered an extra 10 Embraer E175 jets that it will operate for Alaska Airlines next year. A five-jet bump in the order is spurred by the capacity shortfall left by Alaska’s in-house subsidiary Horizon Air, which faces a pilot shortage.

In a move that Horizon Air’s CEO called “disheartening,” regional carrier SkyWest Airlines said Wednesday it will increase the number of jets it operates next year for Alaska Airlines, the parent of beleaguered Horizon.

SkyWest said it has ordered an extra 10 Embraer E175 jets that it will operate for Alaska Airlines next year — five more jets than was previously announced by Alaska in June. The order adds to the 20 E175s Skywest is already operating for Alaska.

The five-jet bump in the order is spurred by the capacity shortfall left by Alaska’s in-house subsidiary Horizon Air, which faces a near-term shortage of pilots and has deferred deliveries of six E175s previously scheduled for delivery this fall and next spring. SkyWest’s order will fill the gap.

SkyWest is an external contractor that competes directly with Horizon to operate Alaska Airlines regional routes to smaller airports. So the expansion of SkyWest’s role takes business that Horizon might have had.

In an internal message to Horizon employees, Campbell acknowledged that “this news is disheartening,” yet reiterated that the deferrals represent only a pause in Horizon’s growth.

He said the airline’s firm order for a total of 33 Embraer E175s will all be delivered, with the first 30 of those flying by 2020.

The deferral of the six jets last week prompted anxiety among employees and rumors that parent company Alaska Air Group would take the jets from Horizon and lease them to SkyWest.

In response, Teamsters union Local 1224, representing Horizon’s pilots, filed a lawsuit Friday alleging a breach of its contract and seeking a federal court injunction to ensure only Horizon pilots can fly the aircraft.

Campbell insists that the SkyWest order is separate from Horizon’s jet order, and will not affect it.

Alaska Air Group spokesman Bryan Zidar said Wednesday that “SkyWest is buying these extra planes to take care of the needs of the people who fly with Alaska,” but that the number of E175s Horizon will take by 2020 is unchanged.

Campbell told employees that the jet deferrals will…

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